2019 Schedule Announced – ACEC Engineering Scholarship – And, 2018’s Winning Essay

December 23, 2018

a/e ProNet is proud to sponsor the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Scholarship.  Each year this $5,000 scholarship is awarded to well-rounded engineering students.  The application deadline for 2019 submissions is March 15th, 2019.  Visit our Scholarships Page for more information and applications.

In the summer of 2018 the ACEC announced that Leah Bectel, studying for her B.S. in Environmental Engineering in her Senior year at Michigan Technological University, won the this scholarship.  Leah was kind enough to provide her ACEC National Scholarship Essay as a Guest Post, below.  This, the outlook of an engineering up-and-comer, serves both as an example of a winning scholarship essay and as a rare glance at the industry perspective of a successful engineering student building a foundation for her career.

ACEC National Scholarship Essay – 
By Leah Bectel

Consulting firms are the ultimate behind-the-scenes type of business. Most people do not think of them when they ride along a bike path, push their kids on a park swing, flush their toilet, or turn on the sink faucet. However, consultants design and implement these crucial services and so much more.

I used to imagine consulting firms as a very black and white profession. A client would call a consultant, request an engineering design, and the firm would create the design and help make it a reality.  Through working for a consulting firm, however, I have discovered this is hardly the case. Consultants are the greatest advocates for their client- in any given day a firm will become a financial adviser, helping a community stretch their limited budget to finish a project. They also become marketing specialists, gaining new clients to help the firm obtain more work. Consultants assist their clients in applying for grants, serving their best interests. Firms will then collaborate with many sub-contractors, obtain permits, and ensure they are staying within the project timeline. These tasks hardly scratch the surface of what consultants do for those around them. Each project is different and demands collaboration, new ideas, and innovative solutions.

I like to think of consulting firms as fulfilling a community’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Infrastructure Edition. Townships and cities are some of the best clients consulting firms have, ensuring the community has adequate streetlights, roads are navigable, and water faucets are running, to name a few. Once these basic needs are met, communities can strive for amenities such as bike paths, parks. landscaping, or upgrades to existing community spaces. When families see community spaces are thriving, they notice and are attracted to the city or township. Established common spaces and  infrastructure means safer towns and a greater network of people feeding money into the local economy. Consultants advise their clients to treat their infrastructure as Maslow did for basic human needs, which in turn helps establish communities and strengthen the social fabric.

Applying Maslow’s thinking to my engineering decisions will help not only the clients I’m working for but myself as a practicing engineer. Being able to implement my engineering designs and educate the public has been my dream since high school; becoming a consulting engineer allows me to fulfill both of those missions. Last summer I worked for a consulting firm helping document Michigan communities’ water infrastructure issues through the Storm water, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) Grant Program. Next summer I have committed to perform more consulting work, helping clean up contaminated soil and groundwater plagued from pollution that occurred decades ago. These experiences will serve me well in my future career in consulting.

For much of my life I have been faced with the dilemma of whether I will devote my career to helping better the environment or those around me. Through working for a consulting firm, I have discovered it is not an “‘either or” dilemma- both of my passions will be fulfilled. Once I complete my degree in environmental engineering with a minor in municipal engineering, I plan to move on to my master’s in civil engineering, becoming a well-rounded consulting engineer.

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