Congratulations to Oregon Stater Awards honorees Kelly Aust (’10 B.S., Construction Engineering Management), Jay Culbertson (’72 B.S., Business Administration and Management), and Tim Sissel (’97 B.S., Construction Engineering Management), who are making profound impacts on their professions and our world.
This year, Aust entered the Council of Early Career Engineers. As a project manager at Skanska, Aust oversees the execution of multimillion-dollar building projects for a broad range of clients, including Crestline Elementary School, Clark College STEM Building, PDX Concourse E Extension, and Oregon Health & Science University. “I make a difference every day,” Aust said. “We improve neighborhoods and communities. I love being a part of that impact.”
Culbertson was named to the Academy of Distinguished Engineers. For 30 years, he used strategic planning, engineering, and solid financial acumen to differentiate his company, Temp Control Mechanical, from the competition and grow it into one of the largest mechanical contractors in the Pacific Northwest, before it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Southland Industries in 2014.
Sissel entered the Council of Early Career Engineers. His company, Fortis Construction Inc., founded in 2003, has experienced significant success. He says the key to that success is the culture. “We believe our culture is unique in our industry,” Sissel said. “It’s a culture founded on freedom, responsibility, and hiring razor-sharp people. We are a flat organization, and really try to stay away from titles.”
While CCE has made great strides in increasing the number of female faculty members, the school continues its work in encouraging women to pursue degrees in civil and construction engineering. Erica Fischer, assistant professor of structural engineering, developed a new program, Women in CCE, to support that effort.
“The goal is to build a community within CCE so we can engage and support all of our students a little bit better,”
The program kicked off with a dinner in the Kearney Hall atrium, followed by a breakfast and industry panel. The first step in the program was for faculty members to introduce themselves to students in an informal setting – and introduce students to one another.
“I teach seniors,” Fischer said. “In my first term at Oregon State, a student said, ‘You’re the first female faculty member that I’ve had in four years,’ and this made me sad.”
“Students want to see examples of themselves as they go through their career, and having a female faculty member at the front of the classroom gives them that example,” Fischer said. “But if that’s what it’s going to take to retain students, then having my class at the senior level is too late.”
The program events are open to all students – of any gender – and all faculty members, so students have more opportunities to connect and develop mentors. About 50 students participated regularly in the events and the school will conduct a survey on climate and culture annually to identify what’s working well and what isn’t.
“I’m sure we’re already doing a great job building community but we can always do a little bit better,” Fischer said.
We could not do our work without our community behind us. CCE is pleased to welcome new members to the Construction Education Foundation (CEF) and the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) whose participation strengthens our programs.
Regional organizations are working together to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes in work zones. In winter, Oregon State hosted the Oregon Work Zone Executive Strategy Session Committee with participants from the American Automobile Association, Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter, Oregon Trucking Associations, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and the Oregon State Police. Chaired by ODOT Director Matthew Garrett, the committee works to ensure safety and maintain mobility within work zones.
“Oregon State participates in the discussion by adding input based on our work zone safety research,” said John Gambatese, professor of construction engineering and OEG Faculty Fellow. “For example, last fall we ran experiments on case study projects to determine the effects of flashing blue lights on traffic speeds and recently reported the results to ODOT.”
By collaborating with fellow committee members, Oregon State researchers can demonstrate capabilities and contribute statewide on improving work zone safety.
“This significant multifaceted collaboration is uncommon in other states,” said David Hurwitz, associate professor of transportation engineering and committee member.