By: Cindy Atoji
Above: CEAM officers at the association’s 2019 Conference in Ocean City, Maryland, in May: (left to right) Erv Beckert, CEAM Past President; Greg Africa, CEAM Treasurer; Danielle Conrow, CEAM President; Ron Rye, Treasurer, CEAM Scholarship Committee; and James D. Wilson, Chairman, CEAM Scholarship Committee
Increasing the racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the engineering profession remains a challenge in the United States, and civil engineering is no exception. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics compiled by the website Data USA, more than 85 percent of the nation’s civil engineers are male, and more than 80 percent are white. However, Morgan State University’s Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering has long been a powerful force in the right direction, ranking among the nation’s leaders, and at the top in the state of Maryland, in producing African-American civil engineering bachelor’s degree recipients.
Among the Morgan alumni changing the face of civil engineering is recent graduate Cierra Carter, who earned her bachelor’s degree this past May with assistance from the County Engineers Association of Maryland (CEAM). Now a project manager for The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, she tackled challenging technology and engineering tasks as an undergraduate intern in Prince George’s County, Maryland’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T). Her work there included reviewing and recalculating complex roadway sections to ensure that drainage and curb sections were properly designed.
Carter represents the next generation of civil engineers, defying stereotypes and pushing the boundaries of possibility. But civil engineers have always made a difference, and not only by building bridges, repairing roads and upgrading levees and dams, said James D. Wilson of CEAM.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure we take for granted, but it’s a civil engineer who put that in place,” Wilson said.
CEAM is a coalition that includes county, state, municipal and consulting engineers as well as public works personnel, contractors and suppliers in the state. The association aims to raise the technical standards of public service by exchanging ideas and discussing shared problems in the civil engineering field, supporting legislation that promotes the profession and aiding future civil engineers. CEAM was established more than 60 years ago and has grown exponentially to become a 600-member advocate for civil engineering and public works in Maryland.
CEAM established the Roger Willard Scholarship Foundation almost four decades ago. Named in honor of the first president of the organization, its goal is to attract more students to the field. The foundation first provided scholarships to civil engineering students at the University of Maryland, College Park and later added Morgan State University to its list of endowments. The Foundation, with the support of CEAM, entered into an agreement with Morgan to provide a scholarship endowment of $100,000 over several years and continues to provide a one-semester scholarship to one student annually. Last year, the $100,000 goal was reached.
“The Foundation looks for a strong civil engineering program and encourages students to intern and ultimately seek employment with local and county public works agencies in Maryland as well as the consulting engineering firms that work for those agencies,” said Ronald W. Rye, the Foundation’s treasurer. Scholarship recipients are invited to the annual fall CEAM conference in Ocean City, Maryland, and typically have internships with member agencies or companies. Rye works at a consulting firm, The Wilson T. Ballard Company, which is a member of CEAM and coordinates with the association’s county departments of public works.
MSU graduate Daniel Savage (Class of 2012) works in Ballard’s water and sewer design section and continually impresses colleagues with his knowledge, work ethic and ability to work as part of a team: just another example of a top-notch Morgan engineer.
CEAM is also among the “$100,000-Plus” supporters on the list of donors to Morgan’s recently completed $250-million Sesquicentennial Anniversary Campaign. The Anniversary Campaign set out to raise funds from private and public sources to sustain and increase MSU’s affordability and accessibility, which appeals to James Wilson, who is chair of the CEAM Scholarship Program. Wilson works with KCI Technologies Inc., a local engineering firm that actively recruits and hires Morgan graduates in civil engineering and other positions. Morgan alumni at KCI range from entry-level engineers to senior managers.
“Resources go a long way at Morgan, as students get more value than (at) other schools for the same amount of investment,” said Wilson.
CEAM also appreciates Morgan’s multiethnic and multiracial student body, believing that the broader the diversity of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, the more society is likely to support the work that civil engineers perform, whether it be providing clean, plentiful water, power generation and distribution, waste disposal or an equitable transportation system.
“The civil engineering profession isn’t just engineers but also technicians, inspectors, surveyors, planners, construction managers, contractors, developers and much more,” said Wilson.
What does the future hold for the CEAM-Morgan affiliation? Erv Beckert, outgoing president of CEAM and chief of the Engineering and Design Division for Prince George’s County’s DPW&T, for one, has always been a great believer in Morgan talent. He says civil engineers from MSU and elsewhere will continue to transform the future, with the help of CEAM’s contribution.
Morgan Making a Difference
Morgan ranks 7th nationally in producing African-American civil engineering bachelor’s degree recipients.