Alumni Spotlight: Vanessa A. Hejnas
O'Donnell & Naccarato
My Widener Experience
Why did you decide to major in civil engineering?
It offered a career that would challenge me and combine two of my favorite subjects: math and art. I wanted a major that relied on math. Civil engineering involved high levels of math, and the major encouraged creativity. I became interested in designing buildings because I would be able to see and enjoy a final product after the analysis and design were complete. I am working as a structural engineer, designing large steel buildings. I love it.
What clubs or organizations were you involved in that made a memorable impression?
I played on both the women's soccer and basketball teams; these organizations made a lasting impression. Playing on the teams eased my transition into college because I immediately had something in common with my teammates, and it gave me a greater sense of connection and pride with Widener. I had incredible memories with my teammates including a run in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in my senior year. I still keep in contact with my teammates; some are my closest friends.
My Professional Experience
How have leadership skills learned at widener helped you to succeed?
I gained skills to adapt to many different situations and to deal with obstacles that show up unexpectedly. One of the major lessons I learned after college is that most projects do not go as smoothly as planned. You need to be able to recognize the obstacle, assess it, find a way to solve the issue, and put the plan into action. Widener prepared me to perform these tasks and gave me the communication skills to present the issues to my superiors when necessary.
What advice would you give a prospective student considering civil engineering?
Widener offers a large variety of subjects within the civil engineering major, and my advice is to take advantage of as many as you can. Some of the subjects in civil engineering include soils, geology, waste water management, construction management, structures, and transportation. An individual's career path may only involve one of the subjects, but having knowledge of many subjects makes you a well-rounded engineer.