Alumni Profile: Virginia Groeschel '06, B.S. Civil Engineering
by Kathleen McCoy |
Virginia Groeschel's glass-half-full perspective is refreshing. This natural optimist chose to pursue engineering because of her knack for solving problems, not to mention her strong math and science skills. "I've always been drawn to engineering as a way to help people," Virginia said.
Born in the Philippines, Virginia moved with her family to the United States when her father was transferred to Maine with the U.S. Coast Guard. The family moved to Washington and finally Kodiak, Alaska, where Virginia spent most of her childhood years.
After graduating from Kodiak High School, Virginia moved to Anchorage to attend UAA because it was close to home and family, and because of the less expensive in-state tuition. But with bills piling up, Virginia opted to step out of the classroom to work. She started as a temp for AT&T Wireless and eventually worked her way up to retail manager. Not wanting to give up on her dreams of a college education, Virginia returned to UAA in 2003 to finish her engineering degree.
After years of hard work and dedication, Virginia earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering in 2006. "I'm very proud of my degree from UAA, even though it took me a long time to get it."
A Seawolf at heart, Virginia does what she can to support UAA. She volunteers for Engineer's Week each spring and continues to be a strong advocate for UAA's engineering program.
Looking back on her experiences at UAA, Virginia fondly remembers the encouragement she received from her professors, family and friends. "It made all the difference to me," she said. A professor once told her that, "getting your degree is not a race." Those words stuck with her and she now shares the same message with the interns she mentors. "I try to encourage them the way others did for me when I was a student."
Virginia said that the School of Engineering goes the extra mile to make sure students succeed. "It's a good school with good people. I got an excellent education at UAA because of my professors' willingness to help students learn."
Clearly a go-getter, Virginia co-founded the UAA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UAA) in 2004 and served as the club's president from 2004-06. She and a handful of fellow students had the opportunity to travel to a remote village in the Sichuan province of China to conduct a field site assessment, identifying needs such as clean water supply and sanitation.
The EWB-UAA club remains very active today, and recently returned from a trip to Tiko, Cameroon in Africa where students are helping to make improvements to a local orphanage. "I'm very excited to see the student chapter continue to evolve and grow," Virginia said.
As a student at UAA, Virginia secured an internship with local engineering firm Tryck Nyman Hayes in 2004, which eventually led to a full-time position. In 2008, she landed a job as a transportation engineer with DOWL HKM. She's currently working on the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion, her largest project to date, which encompasses miles of water line, sewer line and dry utilities design over multiple phases. "It's very exciting to have these opportunities to learn more aspects of engineering," Virginia said.
Now, Virginia is focused on becoming a solid engineer. "There is still so much for me to learn," she said. "I feel very fortunate that I love what I do, and I still get excited when I wake up in the morning because I get to go to my fun job."
A natural leader, Virginia serves as president of the Anchorage Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Alaska Section. She knows how important it is to be involved in professional organizations and encourages others to do the same. "What you put into it is what you get out of it," she said. "It has been through professional societies that I've found not just one mentor, but several."
Because of its strong commitment to the community, the ASCE Anchorage Branch recently donated $25,000 to establish the Excellence in Civil Engineering Students Professional Development endowed fund. The fund will provide support for activities that promote professionalism among UAA civil engineering students through participating in national and regional activities.
Through her work with ASCE, Virginia became one of the Alaska Section's representatives to the Alaska Professional Design Council. A member of the Council's Legislative Liaison Committee, Virginia traveled to Juneau for the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions to engage policy makers and advocate on behalf of the UAA School of Engineering.
Currently an "Engineer-in-Training," Virginia takes her professional engineer licensing exam this fall. She plans to return to UAA to pursue her master's degree in civil engineering.When she's not solving problems as an engineer, Virginia serves as the chairwoman of the Alaska Division of the United States Fencing Association; coaches at a local fencing club, Fencing Center of Alaska; and competes at the national level. She and her husband Mark are the proud parents of a one-year-old son, Stefan. When she finds time for herself, Virginia enjoys playing the drums and dreams of someday starting a band.
UAA engineering alumna Virginia Groeschel '06
Virginia, an engineer at DOWL HKM, is currently working on the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion.
On Sept. 8-10, 2010, the ASCE Alaska Section and Anchorage Branch hosted the 2010 Region VIII Board of Governor's Conference in Anchorage. Pictured from left to right: Jessica Jaroma, UAA ASCE Student Chapter Secretary; Kathy Caldwell, P.E., ASCE National President; Virginia Groeschel, E.I.T., ASCE Anchorage Branch President; and Anna Ferntheil, UAA ASCE Student Chapter President.