Discovering The Leader Within, Young Engineer Builds Community Both on the Job and Outside of Work

February 20, 2014

This is the 10 and final of a series of profiles introducing ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering 2014. Many civil engineers invest their professional talents within their local community by volunteering for programs such as K-12 outreach, mentoring, and career development. Engineers not only come away with a sense of purpose but also grow their own individual skills and make a huge difference in the community. Today, read about Natalie Weiershausen.

NatalieW-ColorAs the vice president of education for ASCE’s Houston Branch, Natalie Weiershausen, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE, has been a volunteer at literally dozens of area activities. Attend almost any major event in Houston and you are more than likely to see her doing anything from serving as co-chair of ASCE’s 2014 Younger Member Council Leadership Conference, to co-coaching a local YMCA co-ed (age 8-9) basketball team. Whether it is as a panel participant, scheduled presenter, host, liaison, committee member, social media lead, contributor, webmaster, or volunteer, Weiershausen has done it all.

“I feel very fortunate for the skills that I have acquired as a civil engineer,” says Weiershausen, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in civil engineering. “Volunteering is my way to share that knowledge in hopes that I influence others just like volunteers [in the past] have influenced me.”

It should come as no surprise that when Weiershausen heard that ASCE was starting to organize Civil Engineering Clubs for high school students around the U.S., she jumped at the chance to be a lead engineer and start planning a club at Stratford High School for the fall of 2014.

As designed by ASCE’s Pre-College Outreach Committee, the Civil Engineering Clubs are a unique, informal after-school program designed to fit into a local high school’s already existing club structure. Run by a volunteer engineer like Weiershausen, in partnership with the participating school’s faculty advisor, the club’s activities introduce students to civil engineering through hands-on activities, speakers, site visits, and community service projects.

 However, to successfully start a Civil Engineering Club, it takes the vision and the effort of a volunteer like Weiershausen.

 “I ran across the whole concept of starting a Civil Engineering Club in one of the ASCE newsletters and thought that this was something that I really wanted to do,” recalled Weiershausen, who is employed as a project engineer for Klotz Associates, Inc. “Last September I started contacting different high schools in the area. This month I am meeting with the faculty advisors [at Stratford High School] in order to get a formal commitment so we can hopefully get our club officially registered with ASCE and started in the fall. There is still a lot a planning and preparation before then. It’s a big commitment, but it’s going to be fun.”

 Weiershausen says her plan is to have meetings every 2 weeks and recruit volunteers from the ASCE Houston Branch to help with some of the activities.

 “I don’t think many people realize that having an engineering degree and practicing engineering can lead to new and exciting opportunities ,” says Weiershausen, who recently received her ENV SP certification from the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure. “One of the things that I am trying to do more at work is incorporate elements of sustainability into the projects that I am working on, but I’ve noticed it can be difficult at times to incorporate newer, less standard ideas.” Outside of work, Weiershausen has turned words into action by starting to integrate rain barrels and rain gardens into the landscaping around her own home.

 Since graduating from college 5 years ago, Weiershausen’s professional work has encompassed site, utility, and roadway design as well as water and wastewater master planning. By her second year she was given project engineer responsibilities, including managing her own and peers’ workloads in order to complete utility relocation and temporary detour design plans for a large interstate project.

 Her latest engineering projects with Klotz have been site designs ranging from 2 to 90-plus acres; working to manage resources, scope, schedule, profit, and deliverables for site elements ranging from storm sewer and sanitary sewer to water, paving, and traffic control, and then coordinating with county, city, state transportation, and municipal utility district regulations.

 “As a young engineer working on these projects, I can’t say that I have designed anything super-unique, but what really surprised me was the way I quickly took on leadership roles and that is something that has stayed consistent throughout my career,” reflects Weiershausen, who was just named Younger Member of the Year by ASCE’s Central Region Younger Member Council. “But if I look back, my proudest moments are when I drive by one of the project sites on my way to work and see it being physically built; that’s really awesome for a civil engineer.

 “[In the future,] when I look back, I hope I can say I achieved a lot, both in the community and [on] the sustainability homefront.”

 

 

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