Published: Sept. 13, 2018

Name: Casie Venable
Hometown: Pfafftown, NC
Advisors: Amy Javernick Will and Abbie Liel

My Path to Engineering

Casie VenableI am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina -- Pfafftown, if we’re being exact. Growing up I was exposed to construction fairly frequently as many members of my family were involved in the industry. Additionally, I was surrounded by people who were committed to serving others, in whatever capacity they were able. And this was something that really stuck with me. I knew from a young age that I wanted to have a career that would make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Given my experience with construction and my interest in math and science, civil engineering seemed like the best career path. My friendships and experiences at Virginia Tech further fostered my interest in promoting sustainable, resilient, and equitable infrastructure. I also learned how disasters can reveal the vulnerabilities in infrastructure and communities but that hazards don’t have to become disasters. We don’t have to feel hopeless in the face of hazards. And so, now I study disasters and housing performance and try to fight back against the perceived hopelessness.

Why CU Boulder?

Graduate school was not on my radar until my final year of undergrad. I had always planned to go into industry as a practicing civil engineer. I had many conversations with friends, family, and mentors about what I envisioned for my future and realized that I wanted to work on projects and issues larger than those that I would encounter as a structural engineer. I was (and still am) very interested in policy and community issues – problems that involve numerous stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. For a while, I thought that being a planner was the right path and I applied to a handful of urban planning programs. I never expected to do a PhD. In fact, CU was the only school to which I applied to the PhD program. I really doubted whether it was the right path for me, but I am happy I made the decision to come here.

There is some really cool and important work coming out of CEAE and particularly the two research groups of which I am a part – the Global Projects & Organizations group headed by Amy Javernick-Will and the Liel Research Group headed by Abbie Liel. Both of these professors are combining civil engineering with other disciplines to tackle complex problems like disaster risk reduction. I was inspired by them and their work and looked forward to collaborating with them. I also came to CU and CEAE at an exciting time when the department was putting together a group of faculty and students to study community resilience under a Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) fellowship, and the opportunity to work on an issue that I care about and with others across the entire civil engineering discipline was one I couldn’t pass up.

My work focuses on disaster recovery – a field rife with engineers, planners, sociologists, policymakers, and others. I personally focus on a variety of topics – structural performance, risk perception, and risk communication.

I love the people at CU Boulder. I am continuously impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of my colleagues – they all do incredible work and are committed to making their research meaningful and actionable. They have also been my greatest support system. We all know that completing a PhD is a challenging task and my research groups make the time to support each other, whether it be through providing feedback on a new research topic or having fun at trivia or Rockies games. But it’s not just my fellow students that I have enjoyed getting to know – the faculty with whom I have interacted have helped me to develop as both a researcher and as a person through their guidance.