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President Spencer W. Kimball has said of Brigham Young University, “I am both hopeful and expectant that from this university there will rise brilliant stars in drama, literature, music, art, science, and all the scholarly graces. This university can be the refining host for many such individuals who, long after they have left this campus, can lift and inspire others around the globe.”
In our Civil and Environmental Engineering program we are striving to reach this prophetic destiny by providing the very best experiences for graduate and undergraduate students. In recent years several pieces have come together through the strengthening of our undergraduate senior design capstone program and the evolution of a new emphasis in our graduate program on business operations, project management and leadership that provides us an opportunity to build on the unique qualities and experiences of our students to develop a program that measures up to President Kimball’s aspirations of leaders that will lift and inspire.
This new emphasis hinges on the integration of a real-world senior design capstone project that is sponsored by a company or public agency and mentored by a graduate student enrolled in the business operations and project management and leadership classes. Further, these graduate classes are being taught and facilitated largely by alumni and others in professional practice that have experience running companies and organizations, and/or managed projects in civil engineering.
The program for both undergraduates and graduates is two semesters beginning each fall. During the fall semester undergraduates enroll in a professional practices class where they learn of sustainability issues in civil engineering such as economic, environmental and social impact. Meanwhile graduate students who will become mentors for the undergraduates’ capstone projects take the business operations class that focuses on practices specific to civil engineering. During this semester the graduate students become familiar with the different sponsored projects and each is assigned one of the projects, or develops a project on his/her own. Together with the sponsor a scope is developed for the project with expected deliverables and then the graduate student prepares a request for proposals (RFP) to which the undergraduates, formed into teams by the end of the semester, will respond to as a means of completing their capstone projects. During the winter semester each undergraduate team enroll in a 2 credit capstone internship class where they work for 6-8 hours per week to complete the capstone project. The graduate students each have an undergraduate team to mentor during the semester while they are simultaneously enrolled in the project management and leadership class. This class provides them with instruction on building, managing, and evaluating teams. An important measure of their success in the class is the success of their undergraduate team. Each team is also assigned a faculty adviser who provides important technical guidance as needed.