Published: Nov. 17, 2020 By

The nation’s infrastructure challenges have been and will continue to be a concern for many years to come. That’s why the University of Colorado Boulder has partnered with Kiewit, one of the nation’s largest construction and engineering organizations, to launch the Kiewit Design-Build Program. 

Through the program, Kiewit makes a five-year commitment to support up to 40 students each year with significant annual scholarships as well as enhanced academic and professional development opportunities, including internships, service-learning experiences, research projects and mentorship. The program is designed to graduate well-rounded engineers and builders prepared to tackle our nation’s infrastructure demands. 

“As Colorado’s flagship university, CU Boulder and the College of Engineering and Applied Science are proud to partner with Kiewit to educate our next generation of design-build engineers to address our nation’s infrastructure challenges,” said Keith Molenaar, interim dean of the college. “This partnership builds on 50 years of construction engineering and management at the University of Colorado Boulder and accelerates our long-term relationship with Kiewit. The program will prepare our engineers for an exciting career that makes an impact on the quality of life in Colorado and throughout the nation.” 

A novel model

Students from the construction engineering and management program at Northwater Treatment Plant with Kiewit and Denver Water teams on CO93 near GoldenAbove: Students from the civil engineering senior design class with Kiewit and Denver Water teams at Northwater Treatment Plant on CO93 near Golden. 
Top: The inaugural cohort of Kiewit Scholars. From left to right, top to bottom: Brandon Chavez, Kyle McDonnell, Luis A. Munoz, Alexandrea Wilson, Erick Quintanilla, Alia Ramirez, Daniel Donado, Joshua Murphy, Meredith Jane Kee, Mario Hanson, Dominic Renteria, Giovanni Hernandez, Jessica Ramos, Michael Seamon, Morgan Hollenback, Erin Patricia Keefe.

This partnership, a novel model for university-corporate relationships, illustrates Kiewit’s commitment to innovation and elevates the relationship between the university and a significant contributor to the Colorado economy.

The company is providing immediate impact to students by awarding the first 16 Kiewit Design-Build Scholarships as part of the program launch. Twenty-four additional scholarships will be announced in the spring. In the first year, students will participate in several activities to guide them in their education and career.  Each student will participate in a mentorship program where they will learn from senior industry leaders, recent graduates and their peers. Students will visit local construction projects and will get exposure to the wide range of career paths that encompass infrastructure engineering and construction.  

”The Kiewit partnership and their generous contribution couldn’t come at a better time,” said Matt Morris, senior instructor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering. “Several of our students are facing hardship and uncertainty due to the pandemic.  The scholarships are keeping our students in school, focused on graduation. The mentorship and professional growth opportunities will provide much-needed stability and a positive outlook for our students. 

“Beyond the short-term benefits, this program is robust and will provide a clear path for students to develop their skills and join the infrastructure engineering and construction industry. We can’t thank Kiewit enough for their support and collaboration in building this program.” 

Inaugural cohort

Jessica Ramos, inaugural Kiewit ScholarJessica Ramos is a junior civil engineering student and a member of the inaugural cohort of Kiewit scholars. Her mother, a geotechnical engineer, instilled in her a love for STEM and an interest in civil engineering that motivated Ramos to pursue her career path. In her first year at CU Boulder, she was appointed to a lab researching seismic resiliency in pipelines, and now she continues to help lead the project’s research. 

“I used to say I wanted to be a doctor so I can help people,” said Ramos. “Now I see that through engineering, I’m helping communities to still have access to basic needs like water after a disaster.” 

Ramos said she is thrilled to be selected as a Kiewit Design-Build scholar and says the company has been on her short-list of dream employers since she was 16 and learned of Kiewit through the North American Society for Trenchless Technology conference she attends annually. 

“Receiving the scholarship took the pressure off of me to figure out how I’m paying for next semester,” said Ramos. “I’m so excited to get to know them more on a closer level and not just be a name on a paper to them. They will get to know who I am.” 

Ready from day one

Students in the program will receive specialized educational opportunities through Kiewit-Ready and Kiewit Badge tracks that will prepare them for careers in infrastructure design and construction with 21st-century, market-ready skills. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card gave our nation’s infrastructure a grade of “D+” and a "C+" for Colorado’s infrastructure. With expected industry growth of 31% and more than 45,000 construction jobs to fill by 2027 in Colorado, according to BuildColorado partnership, students with these skills will be in high demand. 

Michael Seamon, inaugural Kiewit ScholarMichael Seamon is a junior studying architectural engineering with a dual emphasis in structural engineering and construction engineering and management. Four years ago, after reaching a ceiling in the food industry, he reevaluated his skills and interests and knew that engineering would be a field where he would excel and find joy. That put him on path to his current studies. 

Seamon had been working 40 hours a week to fund his studies until both he and his wife were laid off recently from the same company due to COVID-19. Fearing he might have to postpone his studies, Seamon called being selected as a Kiewit Design-Build Scholar a blessing.

“I didn’t know how I was going to finish, let alone pay rent,” said Seamon. “Kiewit came to the rescue.” 

Seamon wants to join a large company like Kiewit after graduation so that he can apply what he’s learned to the real world and promote sustainable building practices. 

“I was raised as a Boy Scout with a leave-no-trace ethic and leaving something better than you found it,” he said. “That’s the same concept as being able to create a better environment for people that isn’t going to be a problem for the generation under me. I want to create better infrastructure for society that will make sense in the long run for humanity.” 

Building on the expertise of CU Boulder’s nationally distinguished Construction and Engineering Management Program and a successful long-term relationship with the university, Kiewit is launching this program in conjunction with establishing a new regional headquarters campus in Lone Tree, Colorado. The university is proud to build this program together with Kiewit and provide students clear and supportive pathways to successful careers in construction and engineering.