Hometown: Delano, Minnesota
Year and major: Senior in structural engineering
While growing up in the small rural town of Delano, Minnesota (population 5,000), Emma Andreasen wasn’t exposed to common software, such as Microsoft Excel. Today the senior is a teaching assistant for the civil engineering department’s Intro to Engineering Computing course, which uses an array of programming tools, including MATLAB and Python.
She's also the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Undergraduate of the College of Engineering and Applied Science Award.
“I never imagined programming when I was in high school,” says Andreasen, who will graduate in December with a BS in civil engineering.
Next summer, Andreasen will begin working at Kiewit Corporation as a structural engineer. And as a student in the Bachelor’s-Accelerated Master’s (BAM) program, she’s on course to finish her master’s degree in structural engineering in December 2023.
Why did you choose to major in civil engineering?
Professor Abbie Liel described how civil engineering allowed her to be “an engineer for people,” and directly see the impact on the world. She emphasized that civil engineers are responsible for designing and constructing the buildings and bridges we use every day. That resonated with me a lot.
Why did you choose to study civil engineering at CU Boulder?
I wanted to leave Minnesota and see something new. CU Boulder has a highly ranked engineering program that is very competitive. I came in as both a BOLD Leadership Scholar and a Norlin Scholar, and I knew I would have a lot of opportunities here. So I decided to move to beautiful Boulder.
Norlin required two courses that focused on finding our passions and professional development. It helped me see what’s out there, relate that back to myself and decide what’s next. BOLD encourages you to participate in different engineering groups. So I have been involved with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Kiewit Design-Build Scholars Program.
Tell me more about some of the enrichment activities have you been involved in at CU.
Kiewit Design-Build Scholar Program
I joined the Kiewit program in January 2020, during COVID, but even then, Kiewit provided support and opportunities. They took us on site visits and connected us with industry leaders, which led to one-on-one mentorship meetings. They also connected us with HR advisors who guided us through the interview process for internships. One cool site visit during COVID was the I-70 (Denver) project. I visited it in spring 2020, and subsequently saw it three other times—all the way to its completion. Seeing the progression on such a massive project was a great experience.
I met my first Kiewit mentor online, as she worked in the California Kiewit office. She talked a lot about professional development and resume building, and connected us with HR advisors to get the interview process going. My second advisor was a structural engineer, and he was also big on professional development. He connected me with the right people to get a structural internship, and this past summer I was able to intern with Kiewit because of the connections I made in the Kiewit Scholars program. Both mentors would talk from a very personal perspective about the benefits that Kiewit offered—they weren’t trying to sway me one way or another. They gave me the facts, and that was very helpful in figuring out what's next.
CU Boulder women’s rugby—president and team captain
I was in a D1 Club team so we competed in the Rocky Mountain Division against the Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, and the universities of Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. 2021 was the first time CU beat the Air Force Academy in decades. Winning was an incredible achievement for our team. In 2021 we earned a spot in the Elite 8 at CRAA Women’s D1 Regionals in Oklahoma. We didn’t win, but it was a cool experience.
Club intramural sports are a great way to destress. Also, it’s a great community; my rugby team are some of my best friends. Having that support system has been crucial in engineering. Many of them are also civil engineers, and I encouraged them to apply for the Kiewit Design Build Scholar Program, and now, they too, are Kiewit scholars.
What were some of your most meaningful projects at CU?
My junior year I became involved with the Kiita Foundation Student Employee Scholarship, and Kiita scholarship recipients travel to Mexico twice each year. A lot of refugees get sent to Agua Preita even if they aren’t from there. They don’t speak the same language as their neighbors. They are put in the city with absolutely nothing. The foundation provides support for the community, including food drives and scholarships for kids to attend private school. Last year we poured a house foundation and did a massive food distribution.Another meaningful project was my internship with Milender White, where I worked as a field engineer on the Stout Street Recuperative Care and Legacy Lofts project in downtown Denver. We were constructing a nine-story assisted living center aimed at providing affordable housing for community members experiencing homelessness or in need of medically supportive housing. There was a large tent encampment around the site, and we could see people struggling. The completed project will help people who are struggling get back up on their feet. At Stout Street I assisted with quality-control/inspections of pipe sleeves, block-outs, rebar, embeds and concrete in a slab-on-grade, three post-tensioned decks and six Infinity framed decks; maintained safety on-site through daily observations, weekly inspections, and monthly audits and documented progress of subcontractors through comprehensive trend charts and daily logs.
Is there anything you want to tell students who are considering CU Boulder?
Students are drawn to CU for the mountains and this vibe of CU Boulder.
The engineering program has many opportunities. You can come to CU, take classes and get a degree. Or you can also immerse yourself in the opportunities, and in doing that, your experience will be completely different. These programs are here to help you. The mentors, the groups that run these programs want to see you succeed.
As a prospective student, get involved in as many programs as possible—the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Kiewit program, the Society of Women Engineers or any of the other diversity engineering programs and clubs. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take it one day at a time. You are going to get stressed—it’s engineering. Don’t focus on school for an hour. Get lunch, get coffee, go to the rec center. Take that time for yourself, because the moments you take now will propel you tomorrow and the next day and the next.