Degenkolb Seattle Design Engineer, Bianca Casem, has been honored as a 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers New Face of Civil Engineering! Each year, ASCE bestows this extraordinary honor to 10 engineers across the nation who are making a difference in the first decade of their careers.
The Phillipines-born, Seattle-raised engineer is making her mark on the engineering profession not only within our firm but outside of it as an advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the field and mentor to younger engineers. She is an active member of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington and president-elect of the ASCE Seattle Younger Member Forum. Learn more about Bianca’s story and how diversity and resilience helped shaped her path as an engineer and New Faces honoree in the interview below.
Civil Engineering Source also interviewed Bianca in Resilience personified: New Face honoree thrives through adversity.
From the article:
It’s a story of resilience in keeping with Casem’s entire life and career. She was born in the Philippines and spent the first 10 years of her life there before moving to Seattle with her family. She spoke English well but still remembers those transition years as difficult.
“It was definitely a culture shock, that’s for sure,” Casem said. “The first year I was here my mom says I would say I just wanted to go back, that I didn’t feel like I belonged.
“I remember how kids would make fun of my accent. It was that sense of imposter syndrome, I think. It definitely took some time to adjust.”
Two decades later, she’s working as a design engineer for Degenkolb Engineers in Seattle. An active member of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington, she’s also president-elect of the ASCE Seattle Younger Member Forum. She helped set up an ASCE career fair for students at her alma mater, Seattle University, in addition to other mentoring and outreach volunteer work.
Continue reading the full article here.
The entire Degenkolb team congratulates Bianca on this tremendous accomplishment!
Not all engineers follow the path of primary school to college—to their profession. Some like Degenkolb Designer, Jesus Orozco, followed a nontraditional route. Jesus joined the firm full-time in July 2022, but his first introduction to the world of engineering and Degenkolb happened more than 15 years ago when he was in the 11th-grade class at Miguel Contreras School of Global Studies in Los Angeles, CA.
Degenkolb’s Matt Barnard and Adam-Hugo Holman visited his class as part of the ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE), a national afterschool program that engages students in the field of Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AEC) as well as skilled trades. The program is driven by volunteer mentors—practicing AEC professionals—who introduce students to their respective fields and support enrichment activities such as projects, speaker presentations, and field trips. “I remember during that first meeting Matt said, if you look around a city, everything has been engineered in one way or another—down to where the trees were planted. That it’s all been decided by someone at some point.” Jesus, then 16-years-old, was intrigued. “I wanted to learn more.”
Jesus was raised in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood in a family of immigrants: his father, an immigrant from Mexico, and mother, an immigrant from El Salvador. His community was widely blue-collar, and he was not uncommon as a would-be first-generation college student.” We’re always told to ‘dream big, dream big’ but there’s always something in you that says, you know, that’s not for me. That’s for someone else—for someone that’s affluent.”
For Jesus, ACE was what bridged the gap between his dreams of becoming an engineer and making it a reality. The program not only exposed him to the AEC profession but helped him learn about the many different paths, backgrounds, and experiences of AEC professionals themselves. “ACE humanized these people. Yes, some of them came from affluent families and some of them didn’t. I learned that everyone’s path is different.”
He was soon a regular at the after-school ACE programs, often rallying his friends to hop on the bus for 30-40 minutes to attend meetings at neighboring schools. Jesus stood out because of his dedication and enthusiasm for the program. Matt took notice, offering him a summer internship with Degenkolb Los Angeles as an office assistant during his senior year.
During his internship, LA office drafters, Agustin Huerta, Victor Ramirez, and Sal Hernandez, introduced Jesus to drafting and helped him develop his skills. He then went on to work as a drafter between Degenkolb and another firm for the next 10 years as he attended community college classes at night. After balancing his life as a student and a full-time drafter for a decade, Jesus was able to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona to study civil engineering followed by his Master’s in Structural Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. Through this nearly 15-year journey, he had always remained in touch with Matt Barnard who had recently become an Office Director for Degenkolb’s new Orange County office. It wasn’t too long after graduation that he was once again employed full-time—this time as an engineer—with Degenkolb.
Jesus’ nontraditional journey inspires him to give back to his community. “It was a personal goal of mine to go back and become a mentor.” He adds that, “I’m actually able to go back to these communities and speak their language because I know exactly where they come from.” Coming full circle, Jesus also graduated from ACE mentee to ACE mentor, volunteering with students in downtown Los Angeles and ready to pass the torch on to the engineers of tomorrow.
Every year, Seattle University’s College of Science and Engineering Project Center Program helps engineering students gain real-world professional experience through a capstone design project. In the 2022-2023 academic year, Degenkolb Engineers is partnering with the program to deliver a seismic retrofit for local nonprofit, Camp Korey.
Founded in 2005, Camp Korey is a year-round non-profit camp for children and families living with life-altering medical conditions. The camp sits on a 200-acre property in Mount Vernon, Washington; about 1.5 hours from Degenkolb’s Seattle office. Fisher Lodge, a building designed and constructed by University of Washington architecture students in 1968, features a great room with a rock fireplace and vaulted ceilings. As part of a 10-year master plan, the property has undergone major renovations to support growth.
“There have been many rewarding parts to the project: getting to know the students, getting to help an inspiring organization like Camp Korey, and getting to work on a one-of-a-kind building like Fisher Lodge,” says Clare Terpstra, Degenkolb Design Engineer, on her involvement.
Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, our engineers will be meeting with the Seattle University team while its members complete the many tasks required for the project. Students will be digitizing and confirming original blueline stamped drawings, evaluating the current structural condition and seismic safety of the building, recommending modifications to meet current building codes, and eventually communicating the major findings to the client. As the students complete these tasks, our engineers will be available to answer both technical and non-technical questions.
Design Engineer, Bianca Casem, explains, “As an alum who went through this program, I gained many skills that I still use today which I learned from the structural engineers and professionals involved. I personally wanted to pay that forward and be a resource and mentor to the students.”
Degenkolb Engineers is thrilled to be providing mentorship and guidance to Seattle University’s student team!