January 31, 2008

Environmental Engineer Joseph Heaney ’85 Reflects On Externship Opportunities for Students

Over interim break, he hosted civil engineering major Emily Bernzott ’10

Joseph M. Heaney III ’85 is the president of Walden Environmental Engineering PLLC based in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Over the interim session, Heaney hosted a five-day externship with Emily Bernzott ’10 (Babylon, N.Y.), who is majoring in civil engineering. The following is a first-hand account of Heaney’s perspective on hosting externships.

  • Emily Bernzott ’10 Explores Environmental Problem-Solving

One might question why we host externships in our work place, Walden Environmental Engineering PLLC. It is because the students of Lafayette College need to know what they are going to get themselves into when they enter the “real world” after college. I have hosted externs for over 15 years here at Walden and in my former place of employment. It has always been a positive experience for me and the student and my staff.

For me it rekindles a sense of belonging (that to the alumni of Lafayette) and also it allows me to personally fulfill some professional engineering code of ethics requirements for me to mentor young folks intending (or not) to pursue a career in civil/environmental engineering. I try to set an example within my firm of community service and I feel giving back is the duty of a professional engineer.

I think students have had good experiences and bad experiences in the realizations that their ideal thoughts on the profession may not be as reality is. In addition, many have firmed up their commitment to the career path based on seeing and doing what we do for a week. In some cases, what I describe as a “bad experience” is a realization like “I don’t like to be outdoors. I prefer a lab setting.” This allows the student to make modifications to their course choices while still in school and thus avoid the pain of taking the first job and hating it.

I also try to stress to externs that business is about communication, both written and verbal, and encourage them to not be afraid to reach out into the Lafayette community to seek advice and help as they develop professionally.

I believe my staff also gains from the experience when given the opportunity to provide show and tell to a student about “what they do.” Often for junior staff this does not always happen. They begin to wonder if what they do matters and if they have learned anything since they joined this firm. When the junior staff members run into a college junior and explain what they do, they realize how much they have grown and learned since they joined Walden.

All in all, I believe my experiences with externs have been very positive for the students, myself, and my staff and I will continue to offer them as long as it is an option. I would encourage my fellow alumni to offer externships as well. Many an extern has called me up for advice and, in some cases, a job upon graduation or even beyond. Remember we all have a commitment to give back to the younger generation so that we can continue to develop our College and our society.

  • Internships/Externships
  • Career Services
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering

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