KCI provided landscape architecture services for a 50,000-square-foot addition to the 15,000-square-foot Cherokee Youth Center in North Carolina.
by Megan Cullison, Intern
After graduating from high school in 2015 and preparing for my first year as a civil engineering student at Widener University, I won KCI’s Sons and Daughter’s scholarship. I felt very lucky to have received this honor. I knew Widener was expensive, and I got a nice academic scholarship, but college is still so expensive, and I was able to use the money to cover fees and help pay for books and supplies.
My first year of college was amazing. I loved Widener right away and was able to form the relationships with my professors that can only be found in a small school environment. Widener has an engineering co-op program to help students get experience in the field while still completing their degree in four years. This requires going to class during the summer sessions and working on the job during the semester. I personally did not like the schedule and felt like it would not best suit my learning styles and needs. I like organization and consistency, and I didn’t like the idea of being away from my family for another semester. Doing the co-op program, I could have possibly never had another summer at home, but I knew that the work experience was important. I was able to find an alternative when I had a mentor appointed to me through an Honors Program that I was a part of. She was a senior civil engineering student and told me about her summer internships and how she already had a job lined up for her after she graduated. This inspired me to look into internships where I could still come home for the summer, but gain experience in the field I was pursuing.
I applied for the KCI internship knowing that I wanted to work with the Construction Management division. My goals are to someday get my Master’s Degree, Certified Construction Manager certification and Professional Engineer (PE) registration, as well as possibly attend law school. I knew that an internship like this would be my first step in reaching these goals. I was very fortunate to be able to do a phone interview from school, and I felt very confident in myself. When I found out I received the internship with Construction Management, I was more than excited to have my first job in the field.
I started the internship almost immediately after finishing my finals for the semester and moving back home. I started out in the Sparks, Maryland, office receiving training. At the time, I didn’t know what kind of job sites I would possibly end up on, but while in the office I was able to sit in on meetings about many different projects and got to see how the bidding and proposal process worked. After about two weeks in the office, they teamed me up with a KCI inspector who is contracted with the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA). I had no idea what this was going to entail, but I looked at this as another step in the adventure towards my goals. At the MDTA, I met so many people who had different roles in what takes place there. My first couple of days, I was able to tour the facilities, including going inside the Fort McHenry Tunnel which was something I always thought about when driving through. I also got to see how toll collectors get inside the toll booths and what they were like inside; I stood on the roofs of different buildings watching contractors and inspectors focus on HVAC; and I sat in on pre-construction meetings, progress meetings, bid and pre-bid opening meetings, and contractor walk-throughs. I was also tasked with a few projects of my own, which included doing research on a current issue and presenting these findings to a group of upper-level directors, helping design the rearrangement of offices to maximize space and occupation, and creating a new method and manual of checklists for preventative maintenance. The experience allowed me to visit so many of the facilities that the MDTA operates, including the Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, and The Francis Scott Key Bridge. I learned so much about what goes on behind the scenes of construction projects, and every day, I felt there was a new experience to be had and to learn from.
I was not sure if I was able to apply again for the Son’s and Daughter’s scholarship since I was now a KCI employee, but when I found out I could, I was anxious to fill out the application and hoped for the best. In the year since receiving my first scholarship, my career focus changed and was now backed up by experience and a year of schooling. At first, I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer and get my Master’s degree and PE, but I thought about focusing on bridge and underwater bridge inspection. As I became more familiar with construction management, I knew this was the path for me, and I wrote about this in my scholarship application. The second scholarship I received from KCI was used almost entirely for tuition which allowed me to take out a smaller loan for my school payment.
Overall, the scholarships helped in the advancement of my education and have helped cut the costs I will have to pay after graduating. The internship provided me with experience that I will use in the rest of my career. It created a foundation for me to stand on and put myself out there in this highly competitive field, and I am incredibly thankful for that opportunity.