Purdue's first cohort of Kiewit Scholars will help shape future of construction industry

Fifteen students from the College of Engineering and Purdue Polytechnic Institute were selected as Kiewit Scholars.
The first cohort of Kiewit Scholars includes 15 students, 11 from the College of Engineering and four from Polytechnic.

Financial scholarship, real-world project experience, direct mentoring with professionals at a prominent construction firm and access to high-profile internships are career-changing opportunities for students pursuing professions in the construction industry. For the first time at Purdue University, 15 students from the College of Engineering and Purdue Polytechnic Institute received such opportunities when they were selected as Kiewit Scholars, the inaugural 2022-2023 cohort of the Kiewit Scholars program. Administrators of the College of Engineering and Polytechnic expect these young student leaders will shape the construction industry's future as much as the program jumpstarts their careers.   

“We’re at the inception of a program that will develop exceptional talent not only for Kiewit, but for the engineering and construction industry as a whole, and I expect it will be a model for other industries for many years to come,” said Mark Lundstrom, interim dean of the College of Engineering.

The Kiewit Scholars program provides annual scholarships of up to $10,000 for in-state students and up to $16,000 for out-of-state students majoring in construction and design disciplines. The Kiewit Scholars program aims to provide aspiring student leaders in the construction industry with financial assistance and unparalleled professional development opportunities, including mentorships with Kiewit professionals, internships, participation in conferences networking events, guest lectures and an annual Kiewit Scholars competition. With access to unique resources and programming, the scholars will stand out in the workforce and impact the construction industry.

“Long-term, the scholars will be poised to become the next generation of leaders in the industry,” Lundstrom said.

Last spring, 130 engineering and design students applied for a competitive place in the Kiewit Scholars program. Eligible students are rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from Engineering and Polytechnic who have a passion for a career in the construction industry, proven academic merit, are engaged in their community, hold leadership positions in school or their communities and actively seek opportunities to grow as professionals and leaders.

After submitting a written application and attending multiple rounds of interviews with advisors, staff and faculty, 15 impressive students were selected as Kiewit Scholars. Of the chosen students, 11 are from Engineering and four are from Polytechnic.

This year’s Kiewit Scholars are: Veronica Brems, construction management; Leila Capozz, construction engineering and management; Ava Curry, civil engineering; Alana Devilbiss, civil engineering; Joshua Fiore, construction engineering and management; Violet Fitzgerald, construction engineering and management; Michael Gille, civil engineering; Bryson Gilley, electrical engineering; Emily Helmuth, civil engineering; Blaise King, construction management; Sydney Kroon, civil engineering; Raul Molina, construction management; Sajon Seaberg, mechanical engineering; Brenna Sullivan, civil engineering; and Autumn Yang, construction management.

A shared commitment to excellence

The Kiewit Scholars program is the largest industry-supported scholarship program at Purdue, according to Lundstrom. Kiewit is one of the largest and most prominent engineering and construction organizations in the United States.

“Kiewit’s commitment to developing innovative construction professionals and future leaders for the industry make this program possible,” Lundstrom said.

Alongside Kiewit’s shared commitment to excellence and innovation, Purdue’s extensive resources and experience in engineering, construction, design and technology make the university an ideal place for the program to flourish.

“More than ever, companies need highly trained employees, and time and again, they turn to Boilermakers,” Lundstrom said.

When Purdue partners with distinguished firms like Kiewit to support students in their professional endeavors, it has the potential to change the industry by developing talented employees and skilled leaders. Students understand that an opportunity like this can impact their careers, explained Daniel Castro, Dean of the Polytechnic Institute.

“Students in construction and design disciplines appreciate the opportunity to be associated with prominent firms in the industry which are shaping the future of the profession,” Castro said.

More than a financial scholarship

As a Kiewit scholar, each student receives a scholarship, which is important in overcoming the financial burden of education for some families, said Kiewit Vice President and Engineering alumni Jim Rowings (BSCE ’75, MSCE ’79, PhD ’82). But the financial award is only part of the many benefits scholars will experience throughout their time in the program.

“We want to provide opportunities for students that will make a difference in their lives, experiences that will help them build their professional capabilities and networks and prepare them for being leaders in their field,” Rowings said.

Scholars from various majors within Engineering and Polytechnic can create cross-discipline connections. They will learn not only alongside their peers during seminars and guest lectures but will also learn from their fellow scholars in different disciplines. This meaningful multidisciplinary interaction might not otherwise occur outside a program like the Kiewit Scholars program. Some students may even become mentors for future scholars, “creating an ecosystem for the development of talent in design and construction,” Castro said. 

Scholars also are matched with professional mentors at Kiewit in the field each student seeks to pursue after graduation. This gives students an inside look into what it feels like to work in construction and receive keen industry advice. 

Scholars also will attend “field trips” to see construction innovation in action. They will visit Kiewit job sites in the Midwest and learn what it means to work on-site solving real-world problems.

”In the short term, students receive generous financial support and have access to multiple opportunities for training and professional development, besides interacting with working professionals in high-profile projects,” Castro said. “The connection with Kiewit will bring long-term career prospects in the industry and a broader view of the tools and techniques that will shape the built environment.”

A smart investment in the future of the construction industry

By the time Kiewit Scholars graduate from the College of Engineering or Polytechnic, they’ll be prepared to offer immediate value to Kiewit or another potential employer, Lundstrom said.

“In the fast-paced, fast-changing engineering and construction industry, preparing future employees while they’re still at college is a smart investment,” he said. 

It’s also a wise investment for the scholars, who will be committing much of their time to the program with weekly seminar-style classes with vice presidents from Kiewit as frequent guest speakers. Gallup StrengthsFinder and resume and communications workshops are other elements of the program that contribute to the scholars’ well-rounded professional development that prospective employees find appealing.

The scholarship is renewable so students may renew the award for their remaining undergraduate career at Purdue. Once seniors graduate, however, spots will open in the program.

Applications will open for the next cohort of Kiewit Scholars in the spring of 2023. Then, more students will get the chance to challenge themselves, grow their professional skills and impact the future of the construction industry in new ways.

“Scholars will one day be designing for a world that we have yet to imagine,” Lundstrom said. “Having the courage and grit to move beyond what is to what’s next will be key.”