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Engineering change

Four women in UND’s Civil Engineering program receive Associated General Contractors of North Dakota scholarships

From the left are: Betsy Seaver, Don Lindberg Scholarship; Sally Miskavige, Opp Construction vice president and president, Associated General Contractors of North Dakota; Savana Schauer, Walt Swingen Scholarship; Nicole Dolejs, Honorary Scholarship; and Brianna Metzger, John Jardine Scholarship. Photo by Paige Prekker/UND College of Engineering & Mines.

It was a first for one of the University of North Dakota’s longest-running scholarship programs.

The Associated General Contractors of North Dakota awarded its prestigious senior scholarships this year to three of only four women in UND’s on-campus Civil Engineering Class of 2022. And, they were so impressed by the fourth woman, they created an extra honorary scholarship.

The event marks the first time in the history of the AGC’s scholarship program that all scholarships have been awarded to females in any given year.

The recipients are:

  • Betsy Seaver of Grand Forks, Don Lindberg Scholarship ($1,500).
  • Savana Schauer of Mandan, N.D., Walt Swingen Scholarship (full senior-year tuition).
  • Brianna Metzger of Bismarck, N.D., John Jardine Scholarship (full senior-year tuition).
  • Nicole Dolejs of Lakeville, Minn., Honorary Scholarship ($1,000).

“This is so awesome and exciting to see because as an industry leader, we’ve been trying to encourage more women to choose the construction and civil engineering field,” said Sally Miskavige, vice president of Opp Construction and only the second woman to lead the AGC as president.

“This pool of candidates had some of the most memorable career experience and volunteer work we’ve ever seen. They’re all fantastically intelligent, and they’re going to do great things. No doubt about it.”

AGC Executive Vice President Russ Hanson agreed.

“The engineering programs at the University of North Dakota are really the best of the best. It’s just icing on the cake this year that these outstanding individuals all happen to be women,” he said.

For years, the industry has worked hard to expand its diversity, he added, and “if we take a look in the mirror, for far too long, we’ve been pale, male and stale.”

A growing trend

From their perspective, the scholarship winners said they didn’t see themselves as any different from their male counterparts. They did acknowledge, however, a possible upward trend in the number of women seeking degrees in a longtime male-dominated field.

“I think there’s maybe a misconception that civil engineering is still a boys’ club or something like that,” Dolejs said. “But it doesn’t feel like that at all anymore — not at UND, not in my internship experience and not on the construction site. I think it’s just exciting for people to see a new trend.”

It’s a trend more senior female engineers have noticed, too. For instance, Schauer said she hadn’t thought anything about it until she mentioned to a working colleague that she’d been approached by a reporter.

The colleague immediately “nerded out and pulled up a spreadsheet she had created not too long ago,” Schauer said. And what that spreadsheet showed — at least in a microcosm of the industry — was significant growth in the number of employed female engineers across three levels of experience: engineering intern, engineer in training and professional engineer.

Schauer said: “This is what we’re seeing, that it’s finally growing. And I think that’s what UND is seeing, too.”

Some more thoughts from the scholarship winners:

Seaver: “This scholarship has meant a lot to me. It has let me focus more on my studies, due to not having to work as many hours. I’ve also been able to make a personal connection with some of the people I’ll work with in my future. It’s encouraging to know how much effort they put into making it easier for students to succeed. You can tell they care about the future engineers.”

Metzger: “The scholarship has really meant a lot to me. It has encouraged and motivated me to keep doing all this hard work and to continue doing my best not only in earning my degree but also in my career. All the leadership opportunities in clubs and networking with other engineers has really helped me develop the skills I’ll need for my career.”

As the largest commercial construction trade association, the Associated General Contractors of North Dakota has awarded millions of dollars in scholarships over nearly six decades. The organization’s members are contractors who build our community’s roads, bridges, flood control infrastructure, water systems and vertical commercial construction.