Opportunity Abounds in Civil Engineering

Since her arrival on campus, Rebecca Valliere ’18 has fully immersed herself in the College of Engineering. She has thrived in the small, collaborative community, developing close relationships with her fellow students and faculty and discovering a true passion for civil engineering, which has extended beyond the classroom.

“Civil engineering is often deemphasized or overlooked, but it’s a large part of our society and affects a lot of people,” says Rebecca. “At its core, civil engineering focuses on people. I want to ensure our roads, buildings, bridges, and water are safe for the benefit of society.”

From creating structurally sound buildings to providing clean water, Rebecca is keenly aware of the major role civil engineers play in ensuring our society operates effectively and efficiently. She is committed to receiving an education that will prepare her to serve the community through engineering. Rebecca recognizes the uniqueness of Valpo’s civil engineering program in that the guiding principles of civil engineering are directly linked to the mission of the University — to prepare graduates to lead and serve where needed in society.

Throughout her time as an engineering student, Rebecca has seen the impact of mentorship first-hand. She has been mentored and guided by faculty as well as her fellow students. She has availed herself of the Hesse Center’s resources as a mentee and taken part in the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) mentorship program, where upperclassman women mentor freshmen women in engineering, as both a mentee and mentor. Recognizing her technical ability and leadership skills, Rebecca was selected as a grader and lab aid for civil engineering.

“The College of Engineering is comprised of a lot of passionate individuals, from faculty and staff to my fellow students,” Rebecca says. “Being surrounded by that energy has elevated my performance, empowering me to do better for myself and to help others.”

Since her freshman year, Rebecca has taken on a leadership role in Valpo’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE), currently serving as the group’s president. Among its many activities, ASCE attends the Great Lakes Student Conference, which involves nearly 20 other regional institutions. The group participates in several mini competitions — materials, surveying, environmental, geotechnical, quiz bowl — with the primary event being concrete canoe races. In an effort to grow the organization, Valpo’s ASCE chapter will participate in the conference’s other main event, steel bridge, this year.

Valpo’s ASCE chapter also participates in the American Concrete Institute’s (ACI) semi-annual competitions. Currently, students are making a reinforced beam for the spring competition. The students have experienced much success in this competition, placing third for cementitious efficiency in the pervious concrete competition fall 2015 for developing a concrete mixture with the lowest amount of cementitious material while maintaining overall performance. This Spring Break she attended the ACI’s competition as a finalist for its civil engineering fellowship. If awarded the fellowship, she will be placed in a civil engineering internship this summer.

“Rebecca is an outstanding student both in and out of the classroom,” says Jacob Henschen, instructor of civil engineering. “In addition to scholastic achievement, she continues to hone her leadership skills as president of the ASCE student chapter. For her hard work and diligence, she has been chosen as a finalist for a fellowship through the American Concrete Institute. And, I look forward to her future success at Valpo and in her career.”

As president of ASCE, Rebecca guides, oversees, and manages the organization’s projects. Recently, she took initiative to launch a mentorship program within ASCE. Rebecca was deeply inspired by fellow women in engineering through SWE’s mentorship program and hopes to directly impact the academic journey of her fellow civil engineering students through ASCE’s new program in which freshman and sophomore civil engineering students are mentored by upperclassman civil engineering students.

In order to prepare herself for anticipated pursuit of graduate school, Rebecca acquired a research position with Zuhdi Aljobeh, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering, the summer following her sophomore year, which extended into the fall of her junior year. The research project involves iron-enhanced rain gardens. Iron shavings were placed in a sand layer of the rain garden, absorbing phosphorous and thus decreasing algae blooms, which have a negative effect on the water. Rebecca tested water samples and created a virtual version of the rain garden. Through this hands-on research, Rebecca developed an interest in environmental engineering and gained experience critical for entry into graduate school.

“Exposure to the research process under the close guidance of faculty mentors is a critical learning experience provided in the College of Engineering,” says Professor Aljobeh. “Rebecca’s involvement in our rain garden research — sampling and analyzing the storm water runoff and developing a computer model of the rain garden — will undoubtedly shape her future, especially if she wishes to pursue research at the graduate level or in her career.”