Graduate degree hooding ceremony student speaker Virginia Groeschel on gifting encouragement

by Matt Jardin  |   

Spring 2020 graduate degree hooding ceremony student speaker Virginia Groeschel
Consultant coordinator and College of Engineering Alumni Chapter president Virginia Groeschel, B.S. Civil Engineering ’06, M.S. Project Management ’20, is UAA’s graduate degree hooding ceremony student speaker for spring 2020. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Groeschel)

The first time civil engineering alumna Virginia Groeschel was honored at a UAA ceremony was when she was named 2014 Alumni Emerging Leader, one of three Alumni of Distinction awards given at the annual Green and Gold Gala.

This year, Groeschel is the graduate degree hooding ceremony student speaker after adding a master’s degree in project management to her repertoire. Unlike the gala or previous hooding ceremonies, her speech this year will be given via pre-recorded video due to COVID-19’s impact on public gatherings.

Although she describes being selected as a student speaker and then hearing that all public graduation events were canceled across the state as a “real high-low,” Groeschel is confident that her message is as relevant as ever.

“There are moments in life when you feel you can’t do something, but you get support from somewhere or someone and you keep going,” she said. “We’ve all experienced that and sometimes we forget when we receive that encouragement, because it was something that happened in a small moment — maybe someone said something in passing or it was as simple as a hug and a smile. But we never forget how it made us feel when it happened — motivated and reassured. So anytime I can, I want to share the message that if somebody gave that gift of encouragement and support to you, then you can rewrap it and gift it to somebody else.”

In the years since her last check-in, Groeschel’s resume has become only more impressive. Then an aviation designer engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Central Region (DOT&PF-CR) Aviation Design Section, she is now a consultant coordinator, directly assisting the project manager on consultant-designed airport and some highway projects, which gives her more experience in engineering project management. Additionally, Groeschel serves as DOT&PF-CR’s Design and Engineering Services (D&ES) internship program manager and aviation specifications engineer.

“Engineering design work is the hands-on learning, on-the-job training, that builds your engineering skills from the ground up, literally for civil engineers,” she said. “Now I’ve stepped into another facet of engineering and I’m learning a lot more about the overall management of a project. It really is my fun job.”

As if holding three positions while working toward a graduate degree didn’t keep her busy enough, Groeschel is an active volunteer, currently serving as president of the UAA College of Engineering (CoEng) Alumni Chapter and as a member of the CoEng Advisory Board, as well as a supportive PTA mom at her son Stefan’s school.  

Having always been focused on giving back to her community, Groeschel credits her son for inspiring her to focus her efforts on communicating the benefits of education and a career in engineering directly to kids, particularly those in elementary and middle school. Groeschel believes in being a positive role model for kids at those ages to support them through a key developmental period when they begin to get a sense of what they like to do and what they may want to explore in the future, while helping guide them to continue their education to college.

“That’s one of the things my parents instilled in us as kids, that education will offer opportunities. The more education, the more opportunities. With an engineering degree, I’ve learned the truth of that firsthand, so thank you, mom and dad,” said Groeschel. “And through the alumni chapter and the advisory board, I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to share my experience of what a college education at UAA can offer.”


Read Groeschel’s Alumni of Distinction profile from September 2014 here. Read Groeschel’s I AM UAA profile from November 2010 here.

Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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