In this edition of #PROFspective, we learn more of Kayla King of Burlington County. Kayla is currently a senior and majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering and in this excerpt we learn more of how Rowan provided opportunities to further her career as well as enriched her experience as a college student.
What is civil engineering?
Civil engineering, to me, is the ability to design, build and construct all types of bridges, buildings, any type of infrastructure. Civil engineering also deals with maintaining all of that aforementioned infrastructure When you’re on a job site you’ll see that it’s not just all the construction workers that you see building things. It’s also all the design teams, consulting teams, the land surveying teams, there’s a bunch that goes into all of the different infrastructure that we see today.
What made you choose engineering and more specifically civil engineering?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer; my father was actually in the construction industry growing up. My father was an ironworker, to put it into perspective, those are people that you see climbing all the high rises, putting up all that steel. Later in his career he switched into becoming an operating engineer with Local 825. I’ve always had a background in construction, which has influenced my decision, but I’ve also always loved math and science.
I was always a problem solver, I love to answer questions and come up with solutions with intricate questions or challenges. I’ve also really enjoyed engineering diving, that is something that I’ve learned all the way back in eighth grade. I would say that because of my upbringing and just familiarity in the construction industry I’ve gotten some inner niche details within the industry. So I’ve just kind of always known that I wanted to do civil engineering.
What goes into civil engineer diving?
They’re basically commercial divers, they do not have typical scuba equipment but you do have something similar to the whole helmet. There are a lot of intricate differences such as how you don’t have the air tank on your back it’s fed into a line to you. Throughout the dive, you have a tagline throughout. With civil engineer divers, these people are the ones that kind of will go in anything that has water. They’re certified to be able to go underground, and they end up taking special care into noticing how things are down below and then report that information to the people up above. That’s how they’re able to do underwater inspections on timber piles on bridges or foundations. So it’s really nice. It’s an interesting thing that a lot of people don’t know about.
What made you choose Rowan initially?
Rowan is close to home, but not too close. I’ve also been very fortunate to get a lot of scholarships to go here. Rowan has an incredible engineering program. In my opinion, it’s got to the point where you cannot even argue that it isn’t. I believe we’re 15th in the nation for the last year for our civil engineering program. So I’m very proud to consider myself to soon be a Rowan graduate.
Describe your experience here.
So I’ve been involved in everything since the start of my freshman year. I have been a Chamberlain Student Center building manager and before I did that I had a position working at the Information Service Desk.
Outside of work-related aspects, I’ve been involved in the Wrestling Club, which is something a lot of people wouldn’t think of. I had met a friend freshman year and we became really close. I kind of pinned him in his freshman dorm room and I’ve been going to the club ever since.
I’ve also been involved in various other clubs throughout my time on campus. I am ASCE president and have been for the past two years. Before getting that position, I was the senator of the club. I’m also involved with women’s engineering. I used to hold the workshop chair position as well as the senate chair position for that club as well.
What does ASCE stand for, and what does it represent?
ASCE is the American Society of Civil Engineers and it is a worldwide organization. The ASCE national has different student chapter branches where we are able to compete in various different competitions with other regions of schools. So for example, we are hosting the ASCE Region One metropolitan symposium from April 21 to the 23rd this upcoming year. There is a lot of excitement around it because of how so many different students can get involved in it. The competition has a bunch of different challenges and tasks such as making things like concrete canoes with surveying competitions. It’s a whole bunch of things to help facilitate fun and learning at the same time.
Could you provide some insight on what went into Women in Engineering?
WE (Women in Engineering) was definitely a club that I enjoyed being a part of. I wasn’t as involved as I have been in comparison with ASCE just because ASCE is more directly geared towards my major, so I decided to give more time towards that. But WE was definitely a great thing because it was under the I triple E which is the electrical engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering major club. And I just like WE slightly better than SWE (Society of Women Engineers) throughout my time here because I feel like the individuals that WE had were more personable while SWE was definitely more professional. So it kind of depends upon what you were looking for at the time. In my case,I decided to go the latter route because I wanted to make more friends. They also had really good baked ziti at the time.
What is it like being a woman in the engineering field? How would you say your experience has been so far?
I love being a woman in STEM. I like the fact that I’m constantly expected to do less, because then I always do more and there’s always an element of surprise. I’ve grown accustomed to hearing things such as “What the heck? Where’d this come from?” I like to be able to prove myself and my worth.
So, talk to me about your most influential professor here.
So the most influential professor for me would definitely be Dr. Douglas Cleary. He’s a great teacher. You get an introduction to him in your freshman or sophomore year. Dr. Cleary has courses where you deal with statistics, which is a really fundamental civil civil engineering course. Right from the start, you definitely understand that he’s a professor who’s looking out for your best interest. As time went on, I got more involved with ASCE and I spent more time with Dr. Cleary and I definitely can say he is one of the best professors here.
What are some of the clubs that you’ve been involved with like?
I’ve been a part of a slew of different clubs. One of the ones that I’ve been involved in throughout my time here is ASCE, WE and SWE, but there are a million other different ones like Tau Beta Pi, which is an honor-based introductory society. For Tau Beta Pi, it’s invitation only, which is really cool. I’ve also been a part of the Rowan Environmental Action League, which is something where if kids are interested in the environmentally friendly side of civil engineering, it’s definitely a way to give back to the community and participate in a lot of campus cleanups.
We also have EWB, which is Engineers Without Borders, which is a club where a lot of the students can have opportunities to go out of the country and be able to work on small different tasks to help the communities there. Another club is 3D PC. So this one’s not technically engineering-based, but it is something to keep an eye on, because a lot of civil engineers might have some like niche interests. So say if they want to build something themselves, 3D PC allows you to print your own personal designs. You also have NSBE, which is the National Society of Black Engineers, or SAME which is the Society of American Engineers.
When you’re here at Rowan in my opinion I think you should try and give every club that you might be interested in the chance. In my experience, a lot of my peers were doing the same thing and it gives you the chance to separate yourself from others, they’re gonna be the things that get your name out there.
Being a part of different clubs and associations is gonna be the way that professors know you. And professors obviously have had their own life, their own network. So it’s really important to make sure that you are involved in the clubs, because it’ll set you apart from everyone else.
What are your goals for the future?
I would love to end up becoming an engineer diver. If that falls through I’d also be open to the idea of becoming a construction project manager, I don’t necessarily have a direct path right now. I’m in a place where I have a great amount of internship experience. I’ve done an excellent amount of work during my time at Rowan. So it’s kind of just kind of where life takes me so far.
What impact do you wish to have on the world?
I would love to be the “know it all” answer for everyone. That’s what I kind of did at Rowan, just being involved in everything. That’s what I really like to do is just being a leader and being able to help anyone, no matter what it is. Even if I don’t know the answer, I would love to find out and help you with that. So that’s why I’ve always enjoyed being a part of all the clubs because of all the different mentoring opportunities that they include, there is definitely a great way to foster more relationships, and therefore more networking opportunities for a better job in the future.
What’s one piece of advice you would give an incoming freshman?
I would say don’t give up and keep your head high. You know yourself best. So if it is something that you want to do in regards to a club, Greek life, or if it’s something that you’re not sure about and you say you want a friend to go with, that’s ok. You don’t need a friend. Do it by yourself. You have the confidence.
See our video with Kayla here:
Like what you see?
Story produced by:
Lucas Taylor, English Education graduate student