Strong Industry Ties on Display at Annual CEE Industry Leadership Night
This October, Northeastern University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and its Industrial Advisory Board hosted the 9th annual Industry Leadership Night. The event brings together members of industry, faculty, students, public officials, and alumni to celebrate and strengthen the ties between the department and leading players in the civil and environmental engineering profession.
This year’s distinguished guest speaker was Lisa Wieland, the recently-appointed Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Port Authority. She is the first woman to hold the position. Ms. Wieland spoke about MassPort’s future plans for Logan International Airport, the ways in which the agency is addressing issues of climate change, and how they are meeting emerging trends in travel, such as the rise of ride-share apps for passenger pick-up and drop-off.
In addition to Ms. Wieland, Department Chair and CDM Smith Professor Jerry Hajjar, College of Engineering Dean Jackie Isaacs, and Northeastern Provost Jim Bean provided remarks. They spoke to Northeastern’s commitment to experiential education and use-inspired research, and the continued importance of strong ties with industry to ensure students are equipped with the skills needed in a changing economy. The Department cohosted the event in conjunction with their Industrial Advisory Board. The Board is chaired by Christine Keville, President of Keville Enterprises, and current president of the Moles Society.
The speaking portion of the event was preceded by a networking reception, where members of industry could meet graduate students and learn about their research. Michael Tormey, an undergraduate student pursuing a BS in Civil Engineering, also addressed the attendees about his time at Northeastern. His remarks may be read below in full.
Remarks by Michael Tormey
9th Annual Industry Leadership Night
Northeastern Alumni Center
Director Wieland, Secretary Pollack, Dr. Hajjar, Industry Leaders, and fellow students: good evening! It’s a tremendous honor to be here tonight and to be able to share a little about my Northeastern journey. I’m Mike Tormey, a 5th year senior undergraduate student double majoring in Economics and Civil Engineering with a concentration in Transportation.
I think a lot of the time when people think “engineer,” they think “problem-solver.” My five years in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, however, has been transformative because it’s helped me realize that engineering is not just the solving of problems; rather, engineers have a pressing responsibility and great opportunity to, instead, “create solutions,” to go beyond technical expertise to achieve excellence for social applications.
The opportunities for students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have helped me understand this distinction, equipped me with the skills and practice necessary to lead creative solution-building in my career, and charted me on a path to make a difference in the areas about which I’ve found I care very deeply. In particular, there are three components of Civil Engineering at Northeastern that have made the difference for me.
The first is the department’s interdisciplinary focus. Everything about my time at Northeastern has been interdisciplinary, and that sharing of ideas and perspectives has shaped how I see challenges and approach solutions. For example, the summer after my first-year I traveled on a Civil Engineering Dialogue of Civilizations trip with Dr. Auroop Ganguly, where I studied the science and politics of climate change in Indian megacities. We were a group of students from across the university engaging with economics, planning, business, coding, politics, engineering, and social and global change. We were fully immersed in what it means to think bigger about complex global challenges in interdisciplinary ways.
Second, the program has a focus on fundamental skills coupled with a drive towards innovation. I took Civil Engineering materials during my first year at Northeastern, and right away I was challenged to design, carry out, and share the results of an independent research project fully embedded in the course. This laboratory experience enabled us to explore new and exciting materials and consider their use in civil infrastructure. I was able to use the classroom lessons to practice hands-on research, and that opportunity was tremendous.
Lastly, the program is applied. I’m currently on my third co-op at the Boston Transportation Department as a Transit Planner, where, among other projects, I’m leading the agency’s efforts to update the Silver Line bus lanes, an undertaking that will improve the commutes of 24,000 daily bus riders in the South End, Roxbury, and beyond. Every day at BTD and in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, I’m challenged to apply what I’ve learned, to complement a rich and rigorous classroom education with impactful experiential opportunities.
Northeastern has shown me that the best engineers are those who seek out not just problems to solve but wholly new solutions to complex, interdisciplinary, and global challenges. I know that, when I graduate in May, I’ll be equipped with the skills necessary for leading innovative, community-focused, and transformative solution-building for our world.
I think it’s clear that I really don’t have enough time to say all the nice things I’d like to say about what this Department and University have done for me—and students like me! So thank you all for having me and for being here tonight!