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My pathway to academia

By Katie Bowman posted 11-22-2021 06:49 PM


In high school, all I ever wanted to do was to leave my hometown and attend a four-year university. With this goal in mind, I attended one of the first universities that had accepted me: California State University, Fresno.

My main objective while attending the university was to graduate as quickly as possible and earn my own salary. And I did. I graduated high school at the age of 17 and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at 21.

I immediately started working at Stantec, a land development firm in Santa Barbara, California, and stayed there for about three and a half years.

I decided I needed a change. Not knowing what that change could be, I moved to Memphis, to live with my brother and sister-in-law. After relocating, I landed a job at Kimley-Horn and Associates, where I worked for a year and half.

While I was working at Kimley-Horn, I decided to start my master’s degree program in civil engineering at the University of Memphis. I was taking classes in the evening while working full-time during the day. After completing two semesters of graduate school while working full-time, I decided I needed another change.

This time, though, I knew what that change could be. I talked to my adviser at the University of Memphis, and she offered me a position as a graduate research assistant and work under her, with my tuition being waived. This is the change that I was looking for, as I realized I am passionate about academia. 

It is OK to not know what you ultimately want to do with your life and your career. It took me two different jobs and a relocation to figure out that consulting for a private company is not my passion. I am now working on my Ph.D. at the University of Memphis and maintain my position as a graduate research assistant.

My goal now is to mirror my adviser’s path and one day be a professor at a four-year university. Working under someone you admire, and respect is extremely important in today’s society, and I believe I have found this. I wish I would have taken more time in between changes to understand that I wasn’t happy and desired a more widespread change with my career. But I’m glad I finally found the right fit.

Katie Bowman, P.E., M.ASCE, is a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant at the University of Memphis. She also serves as vice president of ASCE’s West Tennessee Branch.


05-24-2024 09:56 AM

Good stories! Congratulations to you!

My career as a civil engineer began in Brazil. In 1998, he entered the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), one of the best universities in the country at the time, located in the city of Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais.

Here in Brazil, an engineering degree lasts five years, with full-time classes. During a difficult period in the country, the university went through several strikes, and I just graduated in 2004. So I'm about to complete 20 years of training.

Shortly after graduating, I started working at a local construction company. The following year, I went to work in the state of Rio de Janeiro, on a project for Petrobras (oil and gas company). Afterwards, I worked on infrastructure and paving projects. Since 2009, I have worked at a nuclear fuel factory, where I am responsible for all maintenance and civil construction.

And now, after 20 years of experience, I would like to immigrate to the USA. I believe I can contribute with my experience, learn a lot and create a new relationship with you.

12-26-2023 08:45 PM

This is amazing! Thank for sharing your story. Do you mind if I ask you to share more details about your time applying and gettting into graduate school? My name is Domenica, a 23 year old undergraduate civil engineering student and I'm currently applying to my master's program in Civil Engineer, but I've been having quite some difficulty writing my sop, which is the topic I wanted to ask you about. 

11-29-2021 07:09 AM

This is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing!