When Amanda Albrecht first came to Washington University in St. Louis, she thought she would stay for four years then get a job. But learning that four years isn't always enough and a campus construction project changed everything.
Amanda Albrecht (Photo by Joe Fuqua)
Albrecht's experience as a work-study student in a biology lab showed her that graduate school was necessary for a career in the field. At the same time, she was fascinated by the construction of a new residence hall on the South Forty. A talk with Kevin Truman, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, sold her on changing her major to civil engineering. Working summers and part-time through the school year at a construction firm confirmed her choice, and she was prepared to graduate in May 2002.
"WashU helped me to be open and comfortable with different possibilities in my life," said Albrecht, who is now an assistant professor and program chair of construction management at the University of Cincinnati (UC).
"When you're 18 or 19, you feel pressure to stay on the path you've chosen, and to switch off of that path is a major decision. Having someone like Professor Truman to talk with made me more willing to think outside of the path that I was on and helped me decide to switch over to civil engineering."
One autumn day during Albrecht's senior year, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the nation's economy and halted new construction projects, making jobs in the field scarce. Albrecht adapted by staying at WashU for another year to earn a master's degree in construction management before taking a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and later with a construction firm in Cincinnati.
When yet another economic downturn put construction on hold, Albrecht decided to change paths again and earn a law degree at UC in 2010. Her education in engineering and experience in construction management led her to practice at a large Cincinnati law firm, where she handled construction-related litigation. While practicing full-time, Albrecht accepted an invitation to teach a night class at UC as an adjunct instructor. That decision ultimately opened the door to yet another opportunity to change paths and led to her current position at UC's College of Engineering & Applied Science.
Now, Albrecht uses her unique experience in construction management and law to teach six courses a year, advise student groups and competition teams and administer the construction management program, while also maintaining a part-time law practice.
"I am involved in a lot of the industry groups in Cincinnati, and I try to connect my students with the opportunities those groups provide," she says.
Albrecht encourages her students to be more involved to show them there is more to college than grades.
"When I was at WashU, I was really focused on grades, and I didn't take advantage of other opportunities, like getting leadership positions with student groups and competitions," she says. "That's a regret that I have. I tell my students, 'Take a B+ in my class instead of an A+ and go get involved in something. You'll be a better person for it, you'll be more well-rounded, you'll be interesting in your interviews, and you'll open up more opportunities than if you're a straight-A student with nothing else to talk about."