Civil Engineering: Build a Better America

 An Asian man in a hard hat examines an eroding roadway by a beach.

You might not believe that someday you could be the person who designs or builds the roads and highways that millions of people use every day. College students Michael Bazie, Mario Rojas, and Janille Smith-Colin probably didn’t believe it either. Not at first. But talk to Michael, Mario, or Janille today, and they’ll tell you that there really are no limits to what you can accomplish.

Michael Bazie, Prairie View A&M University.

Click a button to watch interviews with Michael Bazie, Mario Rojas, and Janille Smith-Colin:

As a civil engineering student with a focus on transportation at Prairie View A&M University, Michael will someday design and build roads that will serve the next generation. Growing up in a small west African country before moving to the United States, Michael says he’s driven to design roads because he has seen firsthand the importance of infrastructure to a growing nation.

“I would say that if [students] think about the future of their country, and how they can make people’s lives better, it would be a great thing to engage in a career in transportation,” he said. “Transportation is an exciting career because you’re given an opportunity to make your community much better. It’s very important because you participate in the development of your community and of your country.”

Janille Smith-Colin grew up in Jamaica. As a young girl, she would visit the areas in and around the rural community where her grandmother lived. The roads were often in poor condition, if they were paved at all. She was also there when a major highway was built, improving access for millions of people. Now, she wants to bring this same type of advantage to others.

“It’s really important. If you don’t have a road to take you from your house to school, or maybe to the doctor, it can be really challenging for people and their families,” she said. “If you want to work in a field where you get to see the work that you do, maybe not immediately, but long term, transportation is a great place for you to be.”

Janille says students should also feel encouraged about the number of career opportunities waiting for them in this field.

“There are a lot of people who will be retiring in the transportation field. So there are great opportunities for the next generation to come up and have a prominent role in that area,” she said.

Mario Rojas probably felt like he had big shoes to fill the day he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a civil engineer. But any apprehension he might have felt didn’t last very long.

“Once I got involved I quickly realized that civil [engineering] was the route I wanted to go. And within that ... the more I got in touch with and interacted with transportation, the more I loved it,” he said.

Mario said one of the keys to his success has been determination. He believes that if you are determined, you can definitely find a way to succeed. This philosophy even helped him through some especially difficult math and science coursework.

Mario wants students to know that there are many different paths they can take in civil engineering and transportation. It doesn't have to involve building or designing roads.

“When you hear transportation, you automatically think roads and traffic lights. But there’s a lot more that goes into it. I know a lot of people who are technically in transportation, and they’re trying to solve greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

If you want to learn about becoming a transportation civil engineer, you should start by checking out Wikipedia’s article on civil engineering and its many sub-disciplines. Then, visit the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) website. While you’re there, be sure to check out their Younger Members Program for info on ASCE student chapters near you. ASCE hosts a variety of events and can connect you with mentors and provide information on scholarship opportunities in your area.

Whatever you do, you’re sure to find something amazing in civil engineering!

Keep following Fast Forward for more career spotlights!

Aaron Mack
Fast Forward: Volume 3 Issue 2 - Highway