Professional Development & Engineering Internships

Ben Working on his Senior Design Project

Hi! My name is Ben Lorden, I am a senior from Littleton, CO studying Mechanical Engineering . I have thrived during my time at CSU, growing both in the classroom and outside of it. My education has been extended outside of the classroom by the internships I have had over the past two summers, which were highlighted a while ago by the college. In review, the first was with InScope Energy, an energy management firm in Northern Virginia where I worked to research new business opportunities and helped to develop their technologies further. In the second, I worked with Siemens as a technical sales intern, visiting customer sites and learning about the industries they serve. These opportunities helped to develop me as an individual and have prepared me as I now begin transitioning into the workforce. Internships are just one example of the countless opportunities for professional development I have at CSU. Others that I have appreciated are my roles as a Student Ambassador for the Scott College of Engineering and as a Presidential Ambassador for the Colorado State University as a whole.

How has being an Ambassador for the Scott College of Engineering as well as a Presidential Ambassador impacted your experiences at CSU?

In my role as a Student Ambassador for the Scott College of Engineering, I have the pleasure of showing off amazing things that are taking place in our college to prospective engineering students. I have been able to grow in areas like public speaking and leadership through this job, as I have spoken to many groups of varying sizes. This position has been very fun and rewarding while impacting the CSU experience of prospective students from their very first moments on campus to helping them find an engineering major that will lead to a lifetime of learning and success.

As a Presidential Ambassador, I have worked with student perspective from a different approach, interacting with CSU alumni and donors to the university. I have been trained in etiquette, leadership, philanthropy, and service through this role. I have been able to attend black tie events to thank donors, sit in the box suites at the Rocky Mountain Showdown with university leadership, and go to an away football game in Minnesota, interacting with the alumni association there. Being a part of this group of excellent students has shaped my CSU story and has developed my professional skills in networking, and making connections with others.

How has the Scott College of Engineering helped you personally to develop professionally and as a leader?

One of the key components of the Scott College of Engineering is the emphasis that the program places on team projects. Interactions with others can be tough, especially in stressful situations like the engineering design projects we have, but the lessons I have learned about communication and leadership in these settings is invaluable and will serve me for a lifetime. Gaining experience both as a project leader and as a team member has been enlightening to me, developing my skills in connecting with others, making compromises when needed, and advocating for my opinions graciously.

How have PLI (Professional Leadership Institute) sessions helped you to further your engineering education?

The Professional Leadership Institute is a series of lectures and presentations that are required by most programs in engineering. These sessions emphasize various leadership categories such as ethics, diversity and public engagement. Sometimes large companies will attend and present on their respective industries and innovation taking place in the market, offering advice about the culture of their companies and they may even provide networking opportunities for potential internships or jobs! Other times it might be a session on how to create a LinkedIn profile and how to create an effective engineering resume. Regardless of the presentation, these sessions have impacted my view on leadership and professionalism, and have raised an awareness of the issues facing engineers in the workforce today.

How has your involvement with professional development programming prepared you for a career in engineering?

I look forward to getting into my career in engineering so that I can evaluate how the skills I have learned in school can carry over into the real world. I am sure that there are differences, but I also trust that the skills of communication, teamwork, leadership, etiquette, and service will serve me well going forward. I am so thankful for the well rounded experience that CSU has given me, beyond just an excellent engineering education, in both the leadership and professional development realms.

Melissa James at Colorado State University

How did you know you wanted to study Civil Engineering?

P1040472When I started applying to college, I honestly did not have any idea of what I wanted to do “when I grew up”.  I had taken a bunch of personality tests that told me I could be anything from a garbage person to a baker.  I decided to go into Civil because that is what my dad does, and I enjoyed the challenge of math and science.  I did not even know what a civil engineer did until my first semester at CSU where the intro class told us about the basics of the career field.  From there, it wasn’t until after my internship the summer after my freshman year at the Bureau of Reclamation in my hometown that I decided civil engineering was something I could actually enjoy.

The major turning point that solidified my choice in civil engineering was during Thanksgiving break of my second year at CSU.  I was taking an honors section of Statics and learning about how all the forces needed to balance out in order for an object to stay still.  My parents and I were road tripping for Thanksgiving in the south, and every time we passed a bridge or building I would nerd out and get overly excited about knowing how it was staying static!

Since then, my focus has narrowed to wanting to focus on the water aspects of civil engineering, such as water resources and hydraulics.  The reason behind this is because of the endless challenge that comes with solving the mysteries of water in this growing world.  It took me some time and adjusting to get here, but the journey has made all the difference in helping me decide who and what I want to be!

 

What drew you to CSU from out of state?

I wanted to come to CSU because I wanted to experience something new and different from the town I grew up in.  California, although only a short drive from my home, was too expensive as an out-of-state student and was a little too close to home anyway.  After that, I saw a poster in the window of my high school counselor’s office for Colorado State and decided I wanted to go there!  Having the benefit of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program made it much more affordable and a reasonable choice overall.  CSU also has a wonderful engineering program with plenty of diversity to mix things up and keep a person from being too single-minded.  This was a huge draw to me, and I have loved every bit of it!

 

How does the Honors Program impact your workload and time as a student?

I have felt a lot of benefits by being in the Honors Program, one being the connections I first made my freshman year because I lived on an honors hall in the Aspen residence hall in Academic Village.  Our hallway had a great mix of people in all different major, and it was easy for me to find people to watch Disney musicals with at 3am on a Saturday!  By being in the Honors Program, the size of CSU shrunk as I gained more connections to other students.

The academic benefits of the Honors Program have also been wonderful!  The Honors Program is a great resource for getting out of those basic-level reading and writing classes and into fun, engaging seminars instead.  I felt that the honors professors gave a lot more respect to the students and allowed us to think outside of the box and discuss/consider things we had never thought of before!  I have taken seminars are western novels, globalization, the philosophy of freedom as portrayed through film, and much more!

In addition, the honors sections of my engineering classes gave me a more in-depth knowledge of the topics and challenged me in a way that normal-level classes would not have.  The work load is not something to be concerned with.  If anything, I felt like that honors program better prepared you to do your homework and was never something burdensome.

 

What are you involved with on campus at CSU?

Getting involved on campus is super important, especially while being an engineer because it allows you to take a break from all the intense math and science of school and do some fun things too!  I joined a sorority my freshman year with non-engineers because I wanted to find a group with a diverse background outside of the continual engineering discussions.  My sorority is the thing that gave me purpose outside of my classes by giving me a home-away-from-home and getting me involved in community service projects.  The awesome thing about sorority and fraternity life at CSU is that it does not follow the stereotypes whatsoever!  We are more of a Greek family as a whole than a bunch of individual groups against each other.  The Greek letters connect us to others on campus and again create a smaller campus by giving us more familiar faces to see while walking around!

I also got involved on campus by being a student ambassador for the College of Engineering.  Through this, I was able to make a lot of great friends with my coworkers, network with people in the working world, and give of myself as a guide and resource to potential and incoming students, just as Yoda was a guide to Luke Skywalker.  This job has given me purpose and another view of the world.

During my final semester, I started working at the Engineering Research Center, helping compile a technical report about the impacts of in-stream structures on river flow.  This has given me the opportunity to take a look at real-world issues and how solutions are being developed.  I got this job by taking the initiative to email one of my professors and ask if he knew of any openings in his research studies.  I was lucky enough to be just what was needed!

Also during my final semester, I joined Engineers Without Borders and spear-headed the fundraising event called Bands Without Borders.  I worked with other members in the club to plan and organize the benefit concert.  We collected donations from local businesses for raffle prizes, booked local bands to play at the event, and advertised for the event itself.  The event turned out to be a huge success, larger than any other year!  I enjoyed getting to know other people within the club and work towards the common goal of creating a raising money to improve the well-being of people in developing countries.

 

What kind of job opportunities have you had?

I have had two internships while at CSU.  The first one was the Bureau of Reclamation in my hometown of Carson City, Nevada and was during the summer after my freshman year at CSU.  This internship was unique in the way that there was not a set program; instead I was assigned to do tasks within each division for 3 weeks a piece, but anytime someone went on a field trip, they were directed to take me along too!  Because of this, I got to experience a bunch of different aspects of working in the Federal government.  I observed a lot of small town risk meetings, helped capture endangered butterfly species, and went on a lot of various site visits for everything from seepage issues to core sampling.

The second internship I had was during the summer after my fourth year at CSU.  This internship was with MWH Global in Sacramento, California and was in the water resources division. MWH Global is often hired by the Bureau of Reclamation, so it showed me the opposite side of the coin in the private sector versus public sector.  While working in Sacramento, I helped with projects in all stages of development from initial steps to final submission.  After about a month and a half in Sacramento, I was sent to a small town in Idaho to assist with a fish survey study on a superfund site.  This part of the internship required more physical engagement than mental, as I was hauling gear through bushes and trees and walking in stream beds of chilly water.  The final part of the internship was to spend two weeks in the Fort Collins office, again doing water resource projects, before school started.  This gave me a comparison between large office (Sacramento) and small office (Fort Collins) atmosphere.

Overall, both internship experiences gave me a lot of hands-on learning I would not have received in the classroom!  They also allowed me to interact with many diverse people and hear about their opinions, suggestions, and life stories.  All of this has led me to where I am now and given me a better idea of what I want to do in life and the type of company I want to work for.

 

Zach Kugler at Colorado State University

men with pupsIf I am not sure which engineering major I want to study, what are my options and how difficult is it to change concentrations?

The open option engineering program is the best option for the scenario in which a student is confident in their desire to study engineering but are not completely sure which engineering major would be the best fit for them—they will take an ‘open-option’ engineering class their first semester at CSU so that they are able to learn more about the different types of engineering with the goal of informing the student to then be able to confidently decide on an engineering curriculum that they will be dedicated to succeeding in. Even if the student is not completely sure that they want to do engineering, I strongly recommend that they do the open-option engineering program as well—this is because it is much more difficult to transfer into the engineering school at CSU once you have begun undergraduate studies in a non-engineering program. It is possible to do, but much more difficult than deciding to drop engineering for another major after getting a ‘taste test’ for the engineering curriculum over the course of a semester.

What kind of preparation for a career do you receive besides your degree?

Firstly, from the very first engineering course, students will be enrolled in a corresponding lab section to their engineering course. This is differentiating factor between CSU’s college of engineering and many others across the nation–students get this experience early on as a part of their curriculum and it has a huge a huge impact on helping students to get hands on experience in order to better understand many of the difficult topics taught in lectures. Secondly, the Engineering Student Success Center provides many resources for engineering students such as resume tune-ups, mock interviews, PLI credits, as well as networking events for students such as the semesterly engineering career fair which helps students get internships/co-ops and full time engineering positions. I have had three summer engineering internships so far and I am only a junior. I can confidently say that by the time I graduate, it will be easy for me to find a full time job with or without the help of the College of Engineering because of many of the networking skills I have developed and the job experiences I have had thus far.

What kind of interactions do you have with your peers as well as faculty?

Very often do I hear ‘horror’ stories of students at other engineering schools feeling that their program instils a competition-fueled environment where students have to constantly do anything in their power to come out on top of their peers—in extreme cases this even includes students sabotaging each other’s work. While being able to set yourself apart from your peers is important, this type of environment does not provide you will many skills that are absolutely necessary to be an effective engineer in the work force. The engineering program at CSU, to me, is embodied by an atmosphere of collaboration, applicable both to faculty and their research as well as to the undergraduate and graduate students in their studies! To me, this is very important because you not only have more abundant resources for success, but it teaches one to be a better team-player within academics and this skill will carry over to a profession in engineering where it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to be a effective teammate! On an equally important note, the professors and student teachers, especially within the college of engineering, are always more than happy to meet with students about anything. Whether it is to get help in their class or to discuss research or projects that you or they are working on, the faculty is truly passionate about the success of students in every aspect of their lives.

What are you involved with outside of your engineering curriculum?

One of the biggest considerations in my choice of schools was the activities that I would be able to be involved with OUTSIDE of engineering—for me personally, I need to be able to have plenty of other things to do when I need a break from studying. While I am a part of IEEE and BMES (Electrical and Biomedical Engineering Societies are both professional societies), I truly find a lot of purpose outside of the classroom in leadership and personal development, which I have found plentiful at CSU, particularly in student government (ASCSU) and Greek Life. Among all of the involvement opportunities on campus, being a part of a fraternity has been one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made—I am an active member of Phi Kappa Theta at CSU which strives to develop men who passionately serve society, fraternity, and God. Along with that, I have been a part of a few club teams (swimming & triathlon) and have played intramural sports. While each of these things ultimately compound into having less ‘free’ time throughout my week, I have found that involvement in other groups and activities has allowed me to be successful in many areas of my life including engineering!

What made you choose CSU over CU & Mines?

Knowing that I wanted to stay in-state, I had three great choices for engineering schools in Colorado. The largest factor in my decision came down to CSU having a dual engineering degree program where I could study both electronic systems and the human body, two things I have been very passionate in learning about since a very young age. Only one other university has a dual degree program like this (currently). As alluded to in the other questions, CSU is a very large university (around 30K students) which allows for so many different opportunities for involvement, which for me has greatly enhanced my ‘college experience’. At the same time though, the College of Engineering is much smaller (around 2.5K students) which allows for a much more personal experience within your engineering curriculum allowing for better access to resources, your peers, and faculty. Tuition at CSU and living expenses in Fort Collins are much more affordable than CU and the atmosphere is very different from Boulder and Golden as well. Ultimately though, when it came to my decision, with all of these factors and opportunities taken into account, I saw myself being able to enjoy my time as an undergraduate at CSU. This is really important, especially if you choose to study a topic as difficult as engineering, as it will greatly increase your ability to be successful if you can enjoy the time you spend both in and out of your studies.