Tag: College

Part I: What to do When the Career Path isn’t Linear

Kimberly Peace in her early career with text overlay of blog title

Featured image: Kimberly collecting marine life samples.

Overwhelming Choices

The months of May and June can be times of big change for those who are graduating high school or college, and whether you are 18, 22 or 52, the choices that need to be made regarding next steps can feel overwhelming – what do I want to do? And how do I get there? I have a high school senior who will graduate next month, and while she has chosen a college, the path to a career is still a bit hazy, which is just fine in our household.

Taking the Unexpected Path Forward

I can’t remember the reaction when I informed my parents as I was graduating college that I was going to go to graduate school for Marine Science, but I think that’s because there wasn’t a lot of fanfare about it. I was a pretty level-headed kid and they assumed I knew something about what I was getting myself into, but as a first-generation college and graduate school student, it was all very unknown in that moment what the next few years would lead to. Today’s college costs are so much higher that the focus has skewed from becoming a learned individual towards getting a good job as being the endpoint of those four, six or eight years. If it is reassuring for any of you out there facing similar choice yourself or looking at your beautiful child who is proposing an unexpected path forward, take heart in the fact that despite not getting to work with dolphins or whales (I studied microscopic invertebrates!), I have been gainfully employed over the years and have had some fun along the way.  

The glamorous life of an aquarium staffer!

Being Open to the Alternative Opportunities that Add Depth of Character

I would also encourage you to be open to alternative opportunities – after six years of college, it might not have seemed the wisest choice to then propose to my parents that I was going to take a one-year volunteer stint as a VISTA (which became AmeriCorps VISTA that year, I still have the T-shirt with the  first logo!). But they were very proud and supportive of my desire to not enter the working world yet. I had a choice of a few options and decided to work in Senior Citizen Outreach in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Which was not in any way related to marine science, but that’s what came up and I was game for the challenge to assist this rural area. And oh yes, I waitressed to pay the rent. But that opportunity to spend a year giving back to my community full-time was one I will never regret, and I learned valuable life lessons during that year. Including how to work in a professional office, how hard it is to be a waitress, and the value of good shoes for people who are on their feet all day! I’m also proud to say that some of the programs we implemented that year are still going strong.

I coached volleyball when I was teaching high school. We won the tournament!

Making Ends Meet in the Early Years

When I was, finally, finally ready to go get a job, the jobs were not waiting for me. I ended up meandering for a year – teaching a few semesters of college and working in an optical shop, until I landed what may have felt like a dream job working for an aquarium that was just beginning to be constructed. At last, those Marine Scientist credentials got me in someplace! I spent my first day on the job monitoring the blood pressure of a shark and thought I had won the lottery. It was fun (sharks and lionfish and octopus – I have stories to share if you offer me a beverage). But unfortunately, it wasn’t a sustainable wage, and every week a fresh new face came knocking on the door wanting my job for less money, so it didn’t seem like a sustainable career choice. I taught marine science at a private high school for a year and half, which was interesting and fun in its own way, but still didn’t feel like the right fit. By then I had a husband who was working as an environmental consultant, who suggested I pull together a resume and give it a try. I was hired as a wetland scientist and permitting specialist shortly after and have moved forward on this environmental consulting career path since then.

Graduating with my Master’s in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina.

Taking Comfort in Knowing that Not all Paths are Linear

So take heart – the path to a career may not be exactly straight; you may have to eat a lot of cheap meals and work hard in jobs that are just a way to make ends meet, but every job can provide an opportunity to grow if you look hard enough. I still know many of my fellow Marine Science students who have had paths more, or less, straight than mine, and it has been fun to see them grow, change, thrive. None of them work with whales or dolphins!  The career you may end up loving or finding yourself successful in may not be the one you can see where you, or your child, is standing right now, but if you keep growing and being open to possibilities, you may find it. My co-worker Deb Coon recently decided on her “Grown Up” career at the young age of 50 and went back to school to obtain her degree. We are all proud of her accomplishments, and she serves as a role model for anyone who may be feeling like they still, after all this time, may not have the career they were looking for. Keep growing!   

Read Part II here to explore the future of Environmental Permitting as Kimberly looks back at her 30 year career in the field!

Giving Back: The Collegiate Experience from the Front of the Classroom

Picture of a computer tinted blue photo with title of blog overlaid

One of the most important, challenging, and rewarding aspects of the civil engineering curriculum at a college or university is the senior capstone project, or senior project. A “culminating experience” or capstone project is a required component of an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) accredited civil engineering curriculum – but beyond that it provides a student with perhaps their first near-real-world experience of interaction with a client, project owner, community, or others outside of their typical academic world.

Typically students will be assigned to small teams, assigned a project (real or hypothetical), and then taught basic project management, design, and project delivery techniques to work their way through iterative solutions for presentation to their “client.” Each university may handle the details of their capstone program a little differently, but in essence, the students act as an engineering team managing and designing a project as if they were a consulting engineering firm hired by a project owner.

Hoyle Tanner is proud to be heavily involved in capstone programs of schools nearby to our several offices and find that helping to shape our team members of tomorrow to be incredibly rewarding. Being involved in these programs provides many benefits to our team members including sharing knowledge, networking, and the pride of giving back to the universities that provided us with the foundations for our careers. The students benefit by learning how the engineering industry works, establishing real-world engineering contacts that they may be able to leverage for future employment, and the accomplishment of utilizing their educational background to perform on a real-world project. It’s a win-win-win for the industry, the students, and the university.

Many of our professionals have been involved in numerous capstone programs over many years. Some examples include:

  • Matthew Low, PE, Director of Engineering Operations is in his second academic year serving as Adjunct Faculty at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and instructing UNH’s Introduction to Project Planning and Design class. He has been involved in many aspects of the UNH civil engineering program for years including awarding scholarships, and serving on the Civil Engineering Advisory Board, but the capstone program is providing him with the most direct ability to make a positive impact on a student-by-student basis.
  • Wilbur Mathurin, PE, Senior Project Manager, recently completed his fifth year as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Central Florida (UCF) instructing their Capstone Design class. Wilbur wanted to get involved to make a real difference because he believes there is real value to the students in weaving real world experience into their academic journey. He enjoys showing them how what they have learned over their four years is applied at the  project level.
  • Hoyle Tanner has sponsored senior projects for the UNH capstone class six times over the last seven years for project teams including bridge and airport projects providing hands-on mentoring as the “client” for many aspiring engineers. Hoyle Tanner’s engineers involved in these projects have included Josif Bicja, PE; Katelyn Welch, EIT; Jillian Semprini, PE; Kayla Hampe, PE; Nicole Crawford, PE; and Bob Furey, PE, to name a few.
  • Ed Weingartner, Senior Technical Bridge Engineer, is currently working for a second consecutive year as a capstone project mentor at his alma mater the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. With over 30 years of intense bridge engineering experience on complicated structures, Ed is thrilled to be able to pass along what he has learned to the students so that they will be better-prepared when they embark on their careers.
  • For the last four years, several engineers  from our Burlington, Vermont office have been involved in the University of Vermont’s (UVM) capstone program by being judges, providing feedback, and mentoring. It is a great way for our local team of professionals to support the next group of engineers in northern Vermont.
  • Jennie Auster, Associate and Senior Environmental Engineer, spoke at a graduate seminar in October 2021 at UVM. She presented on how engineers help communities solve wastewater treatment problems and have a unique opportunity to be “boots on the ground” environmental stewards. She discussed a diversity of projects and the dynamic blend of hydraulics, chemistry and biology that goes into finding solutions for our communities.

We are glad to give back to our local universities and share our expertise for the benefit of our future engineering leaders and encourage our peers to do the same. Reach out and find out how you can help your local civil engineering education program – you’ll be happy you did.