Summer Internships Put Students in the Middle of the Action

Thu December 13, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Christine Nelson



For most college students, summer vacation means a break from the rigorous studies and hectic schedules that consume their days on campus. And, while most students do work during breaks for financial reasons, the connection between their summer employment and their educational curriculum is not always a consideration.

But there are always exceptions. For 35 civil engineering students in the Construction Industry Advancement Program of New Jersey (CIAP of NJ), their summer jobs put them right in the center of the action — the construction action. Heavy highway construction contractors who keep New Jersey’s infrastructure moving along by building and repairing the state’s transportation systems including bridges, highways, tunnels and roadways hired these students. As part of their 12-week work experience requisite for the scholarship, students step into the role of civil engineer. Through these positions, students see firsthand the real-life application of what they have learned in the classroom.

To assist students with the work experience requirement, CIAP hosts an annual Career Fair in January to help students identify and interview with potential employers. The Career Fair brings together all the scholarship students and more than 25 participating contractors who have developed successful internship programs over the years and who rely on these civil engineering students to become a part of their project teams.

Five students shared their summer experiences and the impact of their internships:

Kevin Campbell, Andover, N.J.

Campbell, a senior at The College of New Jersey, interned with Railroad Construction Company Inc. and was assigned to the Meadowlands Railroad & Roadway Improvement Project as part of the Creamer-Sanzari-Railroad Tri-Venture team.

“Interning at the Tri-Venture Project at the Meadowlands has been a great experience. Working on such a high-profile job in one of the busiest construction areas in the United States has given me an introduction that will open doors in the future. Construction engineering has become something I love. It’s a different challenge every day and [will be] a rewarding career with great opportunities.”

Justine Marie Lentini, Newton, N.J.

Lentini, a senior at The College of New Jersey and two-time recipient of the CIAP scholarship, interned this year with Moretrench. Lentini was primarily assigned to the Owl’s Head WPCP in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was responsible for assisting the superintendents, general contractor and project engineers to ensure that the work was done according to the contract specifications. Lentini also worked on the Dey Street project near ground zero in Manhattan.

“This summer has truly pushed me forward both with my civil engineering career and as a person. At Moretrench, I have begun to experience endless aspects of construction, which I had only read about — and sometimes never heard of — before. Travel to and from the work at different construction sites throughout New York City has also challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and move forward.”

Elaine Chasse, Green Brook, N.J.

Chasse, a senior at Rutgers, accepted an internship with The New Jersey Turnpike Authority with the Engineering-Construction Department. Chasse spent her summer shadowing project engineers as they managed and worked with the contractors, resident engineers and design consultants on various projects such as the Driscoll Bridge Rehabilitation.

“My experience with my internship at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has exceeded my expectations and every day is filled with a new learning opportunity. Coming into this internship, I only knew the facts and equations learned in school, and had little practical experience.”

Some of Chasse’s responsibilities included reviewing construction plans and specifications. She also scheduled and performed traffic analysis to find new ways of improving lane closings for fieldwork.

Christian Espitia, Dover, N.J.

Nilov Patel from Jersey City, N.J.

Espitia and Patel are Civil Engineering students from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. They both spent the summer interning with J. Fletcher Creamer & Sons.

Espitia was very pleased with his experience. “This internship with J. Fletcher Creamer & Sons has been a great opportunity for me to learn the differences between the two branches of civil engineering: design and construction. This internship has helped me decide to start in the construction field, and later after a few years of field experience, I want to pursue some design experience in order to obtain my PE license.”

Patel shared how he developed his interest in a career in civil engineering. “When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a Science Fair Project titled “The Design and Testing of Concrete Bars for Industrial and Building Applications.” I enjoyed the experiment so much and knew right then and there that this is the field for me.” CEG