Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Global changemakers: Minnesota State University, Mankato

From conserving the environment and protecting precious resources to preparing natural disasters — it’s safe to say that the job of a civil engineer is critical. While designing structures that improve the quality of life may sound daunting to most, Sujan Shrestha was up for the challenge. Hence, his decision to pursue a Civil Engineering degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

It was a no-brainer. The programme was designed to provide an exceptional, practice-based academic experience to budding engineers keen on sparking global change. It starts with a foundation based on calculus and physics before taking on true engineering coursework and eventually applying knowledge with a year-long senior capstone design project.

Accreditation by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET meant being able to practise as an engineer in the US and in most countries across the globe. Shrestha is satisfied most by the programme’s links to industry. It was a breeze for him to take on four internships while studying.

“All of my internships may have been in the civil engineering field, but they were all drastically different,” he explains. “My favourite had to be the one I completed at the Prairie Island Nuclear plant. There, I was able to witness and learn more about nuclear energy. It was a unique and educational experience that forever changed how I think about energy and its effects on communities.”

Seeing world-changing solutions come to life enriched his classes. Environmental engineering lessons were his favourite. Once, he and his peers learned to rejuvenate environments that were dead or dying. One project entailed restoring a piece of wetland close to Mankato. “Being able to produce a hands-on design for a real-world situation helped me gain a deeper appreciation for civil engineering,” he says.

Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato

Senior students in this civil engineering class work together to incorporate multiple disciplines in a comprehensive design project. Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato

Today, the graduate continues applying the knowledge he gained from this experience as an engineer in Arizona. His role revolves around stormwater management, ensuring the swales and ponds he designs do not pollute waterways. He credits his civil engineering qualification for teaching him how to build innovations that can serve communities and the environment.

Other students found their life’s calling through the programme’s senior design project. Partnering with communities, public sector and/or consulting groups in the region, they perform a feasibility study for an actual future project.

“It’s a magical thing that takes everything you’ve learned in your degree — all 45 or so courses — pulls them together, and lets you do one project that comprises all these pieces,” explains civil engineering professor Dr. Stephen Druschel.

Two to three projects are conducted yearly around Mankato or within 30 miles — all are required to address five primary disciplines: Structural, Geotechnical, Water Resources, Transportation, and Environmental.

Recently Dr. Druschel and his students studied roads around southern Minnesota for techniques of salting and plowing that balance environmental safety with roadway safety in difficult conditions. At each location, the team focused on something different, such as ice fog, blow ice, drifting snow, black ice or anything else that may cause treacherous conditions for drivers.

They discovered drifting snow to be a big issue for snowplow crews in the area’s rural communities, which they further investigated with on-site weather data, roadway photographs, MnDOT records and infrared temperature measurements.

“Each project is designed to make a difference in the world and to help our communities or neighbours,” he says. “It’s really cool to drive around Mankato and see your project built on a landscape.”

In fact, several of these projects have subsequently been pursued by sponsoring groups. Sometimes, graduates from the programme who were involved with the project as students, take it upon themselves to bring these ideas to life for the greater good.

This is how experiential a civil engineering education at Minnesota State Mankato can be. Its hands-on approach to learning is precisely why this programme’s graduates enter the industry ready to contribute to organisations. Its emphasis on teamwork and interdisciplinary excellence ensures every engineer entering the workforce is equipped with the skills, knowledge and perspectives needed to turn ideas into world-changing innovations.

If you see yourself sparking change for a living as a future-focused civil engineer, click here to learn more about this dynamic degree programme today.

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