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Profiles of Women of EPA: Lilian Dorka

Profiles of Women of EPA

Lilian Sotolongo Dorka, DirectorLilian Sotolongo Dorka, Director
External Civil Rights Compliance Office, Office of General Counsel
EPA Headquarters—Washington, DC

Where were you born?

I was born in Matanzas Cuba and came to the U.S. with my parents in 1968 at the age of 6.  I began my American education experience in Union City, NJ, as an “English learner”, and with very little support in school.  However, at home, I had the fervent and undying support of my parents, especially my Mom, who believed I could do anything and instilled that belief in me.

What brought you to EPA?

Well, first I will share what brought me to public service and specifically, to civil rights.  As an exile and immigrant who can never reclaim her birth place as home, I am profoundly grateful to my parents who sacrificed all to bring our family to this great country. From a very young age, I felt the responsibility to contribute through public service – to be a good American and to give back. I also developed a keen sense of fairness and justice; there is no better teacher for that than living with unfairness and injustice.  This eventually led me to law, civil rights law, and to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights where I worked for 27 years. What brought me to EPA in December 2014, was the opportunity to work with dedicated individuals who wanted to build a “model civil rights program” at EPA.

What type of work do you do at EPA?

I am the Director of the external civil rights program in OGC. Our office is responsible for enforcing several federal civil rights laws which, together, prohibit discrimination on the basis of: race, color, or national origin (including on the basis of limited-English proficiency); sex; disability; and age by applicants for and recipients of financial assistance from EPA.  ECRCO works diligently to ensure that the protection of human health and the environment is a reality for all persons in the United states, regardless of race, national origin, language ability, disability, sex or age.

What is your highest level of education? What was your major?

I have a BA from the University of Miami (FL) with a double major in English Literature and Political Science.  I graduated from college in three years because I wanted to get my law degree before my Mom passed away – she had always wanted to be a lawyer.  Unfortunately, she passed away just before my third year. I have a JD from Catholic University School of Law here in Washington, DC. 

What message would you like to send other women who are considering college or a career in environmental protection?

My message to anyone pursuing a dream is, never pass up an opportunity to learn and grow.  Your reach must exceed your grasp so stretch as far as you can.  As to a career in civil service, civil rights and particularly here at EPA, what more noble a mission than protecting human health and the environment so that the American Dream is not foreclosed for any child.