On March 12, I took a break from classes at Clemson University to shadow at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Charleston in order to learn more about a potential career. As an industrial engineering student and cadet in the ROTC Fightin’ Tiger Battalion, I hope to use my STEM degree to serve our country and others around the world. Through Clemson’s alumni network, I was paired with Lt. Col. John Litz, commander of Charleston District. Having little background on what the Corps has to offer, I arrived eager to learn and observe the day’s events.
To my excitement, Lt. Col. Litz personally took me along with him to visit Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie to meet the representatives of the National Park Service. The day began with a ferry ride over to Fort Sumter. Once there, we were escorted by a park ranger around the fort, where he explained potential projects that could develop in the near future. Lt. Col. Litz and the superintendent of the National Park Service performed some preliminary assessments of each potential project using the “Three E’s” of feasibility: engineering, economics, and environmental impact. Once Lt. Col. Litz and the superintendent finished discussing projects at Fort Sumter, we took the ferry back and drove to Fort Moultrie. There, Lt. Col. Litz and the park ranger evaluated other jobs similar to those at Fort Sumter.
My experience with the Corps was very rewarding. First, I got to learn about the incredible histories of Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. Being a Pennsylvania native, I knew very little about the forts and enjoyed the private tours. Second, and more importantly, shadowing Lt. Col. Litz gave me the opportunity to directly apply concepts I learned in the classroom to applications in the field. From environmental studies of Charleston Harbor to the present- and future-worth of capital to be invested into a project, I not only understood the discussions but even got to offer my opinion on some matters. I believe making connections between my studies and real situations prepares me to be an engineer in the future and be a better student today.
I am most thankful to Lt. Col. Litz and all his staff for their hospitality. Since no one in my family has ever served in the military or worked as an engineer, I am always looking for a mentor to share with me their experiences and advice. Lt. Col. Litz and his deputy commander, Maj. John O’Brien, both fostered my ambition as a student and gave my ambition some direction. The commander and his deputy are excellent resources to any student looking to work in STEM fields and are prime examples of engineers serving the city of Charleston.