Developing Professional Goals Through Co-op and Community

Franklin Ollivierre, E’26, civil engineering, has been deeply invested in the College of Engineering’s programs ever since he joined the Young Scholars’ Program as a high school student. Now in his third year and on his second co-op, he has embraced a community that he is eager to give back to.

Franklin Ollivierre, E’26, civil engineering, was familiar with Northeastern long before he applied. He grew up in the Boston area, and his high school offered field trips to engage with on-campus activities or go to hockey and basketball games. This prior experience with Northeastern combined with the appeal of the co-op program helped him choose the right civil engineering program for him.

Even before his senior year of high school, Ollivierre had already begun an impactful Northeastern journey through the Young Scholars’ Program with the Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan Center for STEM Education. The program pairs prospective Massachusetts high school seniors with a Northeastern professor and is customizable based on each student’s interests. Ollivierre was paired with CEE Associate Professor Michael Kane for a research project about powering remote islands with renewable energy and microgrids. The research was conducted in the Automation of the Built and Living Environment (ABLE) Lab, which Kane leads.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ollivierre was unfortunately unable to be on campus for his contributions, but he persevered under Kane’s mentorship. He was also able to seek guidance from both undergraduate and graduate students who frequently worked with him in the lab and advised him on project development. Even with the limitations set by the pandemic, Ollivierre enjoyed the experience so much that he applied to be a co-coordinator for the program in the summers before his first two years at Northeastern. Across these three years of involvement, the program shifted from remote to hybrid to fully in-person.

Ollivierre with fellow members of the Young Scholars’ Program.

“That was amazing to me because it was full circle,” Ollivierre says. “The Center for STEM Education has continued to evolve and innovate despite the challenges faced, maintaining its signature program of guiding students not only through their research at Northeastern, but also helping them craft college essays, prepare for applications, and discover potential career paths through company field trips.”

Ollivierre was also tasked with coordinating College of Engineering informational sessions, guest speaker lectures and workshops on science and engineering ethics. In a sense, the pandemic was beneficial for the program because it created the option to facilitate these activities virtually even after returning to in-person programming.

“Because of the pandemic, we were able to incorporate different ways that students can be presented this information,” Ollivierre says.

As a coordinator, Ollivierre also participated in direct mentorship by having one-on-one progress checks with students to get a sense of how their research skills were developing. Between his time as a mentee and a mentor, Ollivierre was well-prepared for co-op by the time he started applying. His experience helped him secure a role as the transportation engineering co-op at VHB.

Going into his first co-op, Ollivierre already had a broad interest in transportation, but he wanted to find a more specific focus within the field. His role at VHB was centered around highway design, and he used AutoCAD to design plan sets for several large-scale MassDOT projects. These included redesigning highway interchanges, implementing cycle paths, and improving pedestrian walkways and sidewalks. Additionally, he did site visits and evaluated street conditions for several roadways in the area near his office for a roadway rehabilitation project. Ollivierre was also able to get his OSHA 10-Hour Construction certification, which helped him master basic safety procedures.

While on co-op at VHB, Ollivierre realized that he was specifically interested in transportation. Reflecting this desire to focus on transportation, he took on a second co-op at HDR as a transportation planning intern.

“I’ve discovered that I have an interest in both engineering and planning, and I realized that I want to develop my planning skills,” Ollivierre says.

His main job includes analyzing and interpreting transportation ridership and socio-demographic data for multimodal transportation projects, including public transit, active transport, and complete streets. By collecting big data using urban planning tools and researching existing conditions, Ollivierre can help build travel demand models and recommend project solutions. While his first co-op at VHB had him tackle projects in their later engineering stages, his projects at HDR allow him to focus more on the beginning stages of projects.

“Seeing these projects in a different way helps me understand how the development of projects really works,” Ollivierre says.

Despite the change in pace, Ollivierre says that he used what he learned at VHB to improve on his urban planning and Excel skills to be more self-sufficient and resourceful.

Though his Northeastern journey is far from over, Ollivierre has plenty of support and inspiration. When asked who has inspired him the most, the first person who came to mind was Claire Duggan, the executive director of the Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan Center for STEM Education.

Ollivierre with the Center for STEM team at the naming of the Michael B. Silevitch and Claire J. Duggan Center for STEM.

“She’s really helped not just me, but so many different people in the STEM space,” Ollivierre says.

He also has a great appreciation for the knowledge of Scott Peterson, his supervisor at HDR.

“Going into planning was definitely a very different trajectory that I didn’t see myself going into, but I’m very thankful for it,” Ollivierre says. “Because of things that [Peterson] taught me, that inspired me to be not only a better engineer, but also to think about both planning and engineering as a profession.”

Co-op has been essential for Ollivierre because it has given him familiarity with workplaces and the civil engineering industry. He says that gaining this experience while in college has given him an invaluable head start. It has also confirmed that civil engineering is the right major and career path for him.

“Going into my second co-op, I wasn’t really nervous,” Ollivierre says. “With my first one, it was my first time having a real office job, whereas with my second one, I know what the environment is like.”

Outside of co-op, Ollivierre has continued to take on leadership roles. He was the 2023-2024 communications chair and is the upcoming programs chair of the Black Engineering Student Society, which is Northeastern’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, or NSBE. As communications chair, he primarily managed BESS’ social media platforms and communications with Black student organizations on campus and other NSBE chapters across Boston. Ollivierre says his time with NSBE has helped him continue to develop his communication skills after his time with the Young Scholars’ Program. NSBE’s mission is extremely important to him, and his commitment to the organization helps expand their outreach.

“The mission of [NSBE] is to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community,” Ollivierre says. “Being able to exude that through the social media accounts that we have increases visibility on-campus.”

Ollivierre with members of the National Society of Black Engineers at a conference.

This visibility encourages Ollivierre to keep doing his part for BESS. He says that being in the company of people with similar experiences to his is validating.

“It’s very affirming that there’s people who have my back in a profession that doesn’t have too many of us, but we’re increasing in numbers,” Ollivierre says.

As NSBE celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, he is enthusiastic about taking the time to acknowledge the organization’s history and legacy.

Ollivierre is also a National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, or NACME, scholar. The scholarship is awarded to Black and Latino students who are pursuing engineering careers to recognize their excellence. He’s proud to represent other Black engineers as a NACME scholar, and occasions such as the NSBE convention have given him the opportunity to be part of a community of fellow scholars. The best advice Ollivierre’s fellow scholars could give him was to embrace the community and surround himself with supporters, something he took to heart.

“Last year, I went to the [convention] in Kansas City, and I was able to meet other NACME scholars who are way into their careers and professions,” Ollivierre says. “I was able to talk to them and ask them about what it took for them to be in the profession.”

Ollivierre attributes his success as a NACME scholar to Richard Harris, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College of Engineering, and director of the Northeastern University Program In Multicultural Engineering (NUPRIME).

“He has created many opportunities for me to explore my passions and become a leader in the Black engineering space and has always looked out for me,” Ollivierre says.

After graduation, Ollivierre’s ultimate career goal is to advocate for transportation justice and sustainability through his work. A major part of why he has directed his studies towards transportation engineering and planning is because it will help him more effectively reach this professional goal. By focusing on projects that connect communities together and enhance livability, he will be able to include them in a shift towards more sustainable infrastructure.

With the wealth of opportunities he has seized, Ollivierre’s advice for incoming engineering students is short but sweet.

“Don’t be afraid to do new things and take advantage of all the resources you have provided to you wherever you go,” he says.

Throughout his Northeastern experience, he’s developed what he calls a “yes mentality,” and it’s helped him push the boundaries of his achievements.

“If something aligns with my values and my goals, academically and professionally, I say ‘you know what, why not?’” Ollivierre says. “That’s what I did with this co-op [at HDR], and I’m very fortunate for it because now there’s more to my professional goals.”

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering