Dr. Althea Arnold, civil engineering and construction management professor, Dr. Harmonie Hawley, civil engineering professor, and Cherie Jones, construction management professor, pose for a portrait at The University of Texas at Tyler in Tyler, Texas, on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Six women in civil engineering and two women in construction management will be graduating this week, which is the largest female graduation class for both majors in UT Tyler’s history. (Chelsea Purgahn/Tyler Morning Telegraph)
“It’s exciting, when I graduated back in the dinosaur age, I thought there would be more women,” Dr. Althea Arnold said. “I thought we’d be close to 50 percent by now.”
Arnold said the departments have ramped up outreach to make an impression on girls at a younger age. Those efforts have included talking to middle and high school students, events with community members such as the Discovery Science Place and even reaching out to the Girl Scouts of America.
“It’s been nice to see more. We hope to see even more girls (in the future),” Professor Cherie Jones said.
While the programs have been growing, they are still small enough to warrant single classes for all of the students. The civil engineering students said the more intimate setting has allowed the group to form a tight-knit bond based on mutual respect.
All six of the civil engineering graduates already have entered the workforce. They say times have changed, and the workplace has become more accepting of female engineers as women have become more accepted and respected in the workplace.
“I don’t think we would be here if we didn’t all have such strong personalities,” graduate Angela Kornegay said. “There are moments when people will have a problem, but you just have to hold your own and stand your ground.”
Kornegay, like many of the graduates from the program, is a nontraditional student. She left school, entered the workforce and started a family. After returning to school, she and her fellow nontraditional students said the most difficult aspect was catching up with changes in technology since they last sat in a classroom.
For their capstone project, the engineers worked up designs for future renovations to the college’s Innovation Academy charter school, future sports complexes and more.
Having graduates think about the future of the school syncs up well with new President Michael Tidwell’s ambitious plan to move UT Tyler forward.
The plans that the engineering students conceptualized weren’t just for grades. They all are projects the university sees as part of its next round of expansion.
Tidwell said he hopes to present the community with the next step of the university’s master plan in early fall.
“The strongest universities are strong not just because of their academics, but also because of the connectivity of their alumni base,” Tidwell said. “We want to graduate great students who go on to be great citizens and community members.”
Involving students in his vision is just the first step toward the future of UT Tyler. Tidwell hopes his first class of graduates will continue to stay invested in the university and its future students.
Spring 2017 graduates include 335 candidates from the College of Business and Technology, 170 candidates from the College of Arts and Sciences, 165 candidates from the College of Education and Psychology and 285 candidates from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.