“Ever since I was a kid I had a fascination with drawing robots and building structures. I love solving problems and getting that feeling of accomplishment after it is resolved. It has always been a desire of mine to look back at a stadium, school, bridge, or even skyscraper and say, ‘I helped build that,’” says engineering studies major Joelle Neilson ’12.
Neilson got her first taste of the construction world this summer while working as an intern for Clark Construction under Curt Allen ’79, vice president of operations. She did her internship at the South Campus Electric Utility Plant at Fort Meade, Md., outside Washington D.C.
“On my project site, I worked with a senior project manager, field engineer and office engineer. As an intern, I was responsible for document maintenance and updating, data entry and spreadsheet maintenance, posting RFIs (Request for Information), submittal review, shop drawing review, and other various tasks,” says Neilson.
Neilson also reviewed what needed to be changed in the building process and made note of it on the contact drawings so that the engineers were kept up-to-date.
“Once those changes were made on the contract drawings, I was able to visually see those exact changes happen on the project site when the building was being built. That is what I enjoy the most; it feels like I can actually see my work come to life,” she explains.
A long jumper on Lafayette’s track & field team, Neilson is co-president of Minority Scientists and Engineers Society, serves as the special events and public relations coordinator for the PAC mentoring program, and was the historian for the Association of Black Collegians (ABC). She also traveled to Honduras to conduct water and sanitation research with Sharon Jones, professor and director of engineering, and three other Lafayette students.
After graduating, Neilson hopes to work for a construction company before possibly attending graduate school for engineering and business.
For Allen, who has been working for Clark Construction for 29 years, internships during his time at Lafayette helped him figure out what he did and did not want to do. He completed one of these internships with the Naval Ship Engineering Center. After working in the Peace Corps, he returned to the United States and began to look into jobs in commercial construction. He found his job through “complete happenstance,” as he described it.
It was this background that led him to volunteer to host an internship for a Lafayette student. “I thought it would be good for interested students to see someone who really enjoys his job,” says Allen. “You must feel a strong sense of intrinsic value in building something new.”