College may seem like what happens after high school, but it's also what happens at the beginning of a career. Northern alumni share their stories in a monthly series of blogs. Click here to view previous alumni bloggers.
Evan Lucas graduated April 2011 with a B.S. in Construction Management and a minor in Business Administration. He currently works as a Project Engineer for Whiting Turner Contracting Company.
How did you decide on your major/minor?
I had always been interested in building and architecture. My original plan was to study architecture but I chose NMU based off of an offer to play hockey, and there is no architecture program at NMU. Construction Management was the most closely related major, and would have been an excellent stepping stone towards a master’s in architecture had I chose that route (I did apply to schools but then withdrew due to accepting a job offer – I thought the job experience was more important at the time).
Do you have any advice on what’s important to keep in mind when choosing a university?
Although majors and prestige play a role in selection, I think that a campus visit can make or break a decision when choosing a university. You have to realize that the next 4+ years of your life will be spent there and if you can’t see yourself enjoying the campus, the town, the people, etc., then you shouldn’t go there. I had a few hockey offers from Ivy League schools, but after going on a visit (to Yale), I quickly realized that I would not fit in well with my surroundings and I didn’t think I’d enjoy my college experience as much. Marquette’s my home town, and it was an excellent place for me to attend college.
Did you end up working in the field of your major/minor? If not, did not majoring in your professional field hinder you in any way?
Yes I did. I am currently a Project Engineer for Whiting Turner Contracting Company out of Baltimore, MD. A P.E. is the typical starting position for a graduate in Construction Management.
How did you get into your professional field?
Every year, the Construction Management program at NMU hosts a Career Fair for its majors the week of homecoming. This fair always has several of the nation’s top contracting companies (mostly out of Chicago), and that is where I was introduced to Whiting Turner. Last fall, I was privileged enough to be a recruiting representative from Whiting Turner at the fair.
If you had to do college over again, what would you make sure you did the same and what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have done much differently. Had I not been injured and forced to have to quit hockey; that would have changed a lot of what I did/didn’t do.
What advice would you give me, as a student, to help me get the same type of job as you have?
The best way to prepare for my job is to apply for summer internships as a Project Engineer while in school. Construction is learned best in the field, and you’re going to be thrown into the fire right from the get-go once you get a job. Having previous experience and the basic know-how is important.
What were the best decisions you made regarding college, your professional career, life in general?
I don’t think I’ve made my best decisions yet. I chose a good school, a good major, and a good job to get some experience (which I think was the right decision for me as opposed to grad school right out of college), but there will be a lot more important decisions with greater significance to come.
Tell us the story of how you decided to go to NMU.
I’m from Marquette originally, and I grew up watching the NMU hockey team. I spent 3 years after high school playing Junior A hockey in New York and Ontario and received several offers from universities out East, but I wanted to come back to the Midwest to play in college. When I got the offer from NMU, I immediately took it. Unfortunately, I got injured prior to my freshman year which forced me to have to sit out that season, and then re-injured once I returned near the end of my freshman year which forced me to have to quit for good.
What skills are needed to do what you do?
A strong ability to communicate is important. Every day, I have to deal with a lot of coordination, scheduling, and most importantly, problem solving. Almost everything is handled in teams (of some sort), and critical information must be clearly communicated to owners, architects, engineers, subcontractors, suppliers, and/or manufacturers. In order to keep construction projects running smoothly, effective communication is essential.
My job also requires a lot of logic and reasoning, ability to organize and juggle an endless amount of tasks, and as mentioned, problem solving skills.
When you tell people that you graduated from (or are attending) NMU, did they know anything about Northern?
There are actually 7 other employees from my operating group at Whiting Turner (of about 35 people) who are from Michigan and know of NMU; one of which went to NMU. In all, I believe there are 7 NMU graduates who work for Whiting Turner. NMU has a very strong Construction Management Program, and it shows. Several major companies around the country specifically look to NMU graduates for new hires.
There has also been several times where people have come up to me (while wearing an NMU shirt) and asked if I was from the UP. I’ve actually met a lot of people in the Baltimore region who are from Michigan, and I got the chance to meet Boog Powell (former MLB Star with the Baltimore Orioles) who knew of and loved the UP.
What is your best college memory and why?
It’s hard to say. It was great being able to be in my home town with some of my old friends and meet some great new friends, while being able to enjoy everything we all love about Marquette.
Was there a faculty member who made a particular impact on your time at NMU or later?
I can’t choose only one. All of my professors in Construction Management were tremendously helpful throughout my 4 years at NMU, and they helped make my time in class enjoyable; Daryl Delongchamp, Daryl Kobie, Mike Andary, and Jesse Ross.
I do have to say that the professors who made the greatest impact on my NMU career, and more importantly on my life, were my parents (for obvious reasons); Marsha Lucas – Chemistry, and David Lucas – Physics/Pre-med.
What internships or student jobs did you have with NMU and how did they shape your career?
I worked for two summers as a roofer for G&S Roofing out of Negaunee, one summer as a carpenter for Pyykola Construction out of Marquette, and one summer as a Project Engineer Intern for Power Construction out of Chicago. I held student jobs as a Construction Management Tutor, Teacher’s Assistant, and I worked for the Engineering and Planning Department as an AutoCAD technician. I also served as the Head Director of the Superior Dome Soccer Tournament for one year.
Where did you live while attending NMU? Do you have a story about a roommate or a housemate?
I lived at home and then in an apartment on Ohio St. across the street from Graveraet (home was a lot cheaper).
When describing NMU to people who aren’t familiar, what do you say?
You can’t understand how great of a place it is unless you’re there.