Junior Emily Baughman attends Student Days conference

Summer is a time for most students to relax by the pool, spend time with friends, and take a few months off from school work. Instead, junior Emily Baughman worked an internship and attended the Student Days conference of Construction Institute (CI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in California.

The opportunity arose when Emily was on the ASCE website looking to renew her membership. She saw the opportunity to apply for the Construction Institute and after the process was selected as one of just 30 students to attend. While Emily was the only student from Virginia Tech, other students came from schools like Northeastern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Texas at Austin.

The institute included networking and breakout sessions, but the highlight of the week was the competition. Students were grouped into teams and given a scope of work for a seawall reconstruction project in a residential area with an active and engaged community. The teams were challenged to develop a proposal and presentation by utilizing innovation construction techniques to minimize impacts to the surrounding public.  They were given four days to assemble an entire bid proposal. The proposal required many late nights, including staying up past 4:00 a.m. on Emily’s birthday to complete the final draft. Her role on the team was quality control, safety, and cost engineering. Her internship experience at Allen Myers also gave her the skillset to be a leader in the construction aspects of the proposal.

“Many of the students attending wanted to learn more about construction,” said Emily. “But since I had done an internship earlier in the summer, I was able to further my skills and use those in the project competition.”

The team’s hard work paid off, as they won competition and each student received a $500 Construction Institute scholarship.

The institute was a life changing experience for Emily. “This summer is when I realized that I really did want to do construction,” she said. “Originally, I was kind of wary about what construction career would mean for me professionally. I always had a very set image of what I wanted to be doing and construction didn’t fit that.”

After spending a week with other professionals and students, her mind was changed. “I got to meet professionals and students that helped me realize that I really do belong here. I can do great things in construction and be a strong, professional woman,” she concluded.

Prior to the construction institute, Emily was considering a career in estimating. However, after the institute, she said, “I want to spend my days in a hardhat and steel toed boots.” Her goal is to be a project manager. “I like to see my work come to fruition. That’s what I want to do with my life and my career.”

CI developed the Student Days conference as a program for civil engineering and construction management students to be introduced to construction engineering aspects of the industry. This year’s event was held in Orange County, California. Student Days included teambuilding events, networking, tours of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, and various corporate and industry speakers.

Emily said she couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend her summer. “I’d really like to encourage students from Virginia Tech to apply,” she said. “It was a really great experience and meeting students through the design competition was awesome.” Although she had some hesitations about a construction career prior to the institute, she concluded, “I now know that I do want to be running around a jobsite. I love that.”

To learn more about the conference or to apply for the 2016 Student days, visit http://www.ascestudentdays.org/.