The STEP Ahead Awards are presented annually by The Manufacturing Institute to women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their careers and represent all levels of the manufacturing industry. Caveness received her award from The Manufacturing Institute during a reception in Washington, D.C.
As director of Adhesives Manufacturing, Caveness has responsibility for manufacturing results at six Eastman sites in North America, Asia, Europe and Mexico, with key objectives to underpin safety and reliability while accelerating growth. Prior to her current role, Caveness was director of the Chemicals Development Division. She is also heavily involved in mentoring colleagues at Eastman, especially women in Eastman’s manufacturing and technology organizations.
“We’re delighted to see Michelle honored with this award,” said Mark Cox, senior vice president for Manufacturing, Engineering and Supply Chain. “Her powerful combination of intellect, willingness, and perseverance has resulted in hugely impactful improvements to Eastman manufacturing operations around the globe. She brings that same combination to everything she does, including her efforts to provide mentorship and avenues for growth to the youth in her community.”
Education — especially supporting the educational needs of children — is a consistent theme interwoven into her efforts. Caveness, who lives in Kingsport, partnered with a church in her community, their leaders, and an elementary school to start an after-school tutoring program focused on underpinning reading and math skills for third- to fifth-graders. That program has benefited more than 30 children over the last four years, as evidenced by their marked academic improvement and confidence.
Parallel to that education program, Caveness has volunteered with Girls Inc., a Kingsport organization that utilizes a wide range of programs and activities to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold, while also encouraging healthy living, offering academic support, and emphasizing life skills instruction. Her involvement there started with one field day volunteer opportunity, and that initial day extended into a longer commitment. Caveness partnered with United Way leaders in Eastman manufacturing and other Eastman organizations, and their results for Girls Inc. were impactful: providing new picnic facilities, enclosing porches for more classroom space, tiling floors, and raising funds for Thanksgiving meals for partnering families.
“Our communities, work and personal, are as strong as what we put into them, and we are blessed to work for a company that values this,” Caveness said. “One of the best parts of my job is the people I get to work with — their character, energy, and genuine interest in making a positive difference for our company and community. I have learned that success, both inside and outside of work, is important, but investing in others keeps life in perspective. In the end, we all benefit and learn more from each other when we pull for the best in others.”