Texas State’s inaugural class of civil engineering majors readies for graduation and the job market

Student Experience

Matt Joyce | May 5, 2023

With a focus on technology-enhanced infrastructure, the program aims to prep grads for industry demands

man and woman standing next to plastic tub holding research project
Lauren Graham and Bill LeFranc, graduating seniors in TXST's civil engineering program, display their Canyon Lake Dam project at Senior Design Day. Their design project teammates are Paola Huynh and Catalina Gonzalez. Their faculty advisors are Dr. Felipe Gutierrez and Dr. Feng Hong.

Texas State University is graduating its first class of civil engineering majors this week — a milestone for the students and faculty members who’ve pioneered the Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree program since its launch in 2019.

Many students in the class of 32 graduates transferred to Texas State or extended their studies specifically to participate in the civil engineering degree. Since starting with 96 undergraduates, the school has grown to 320 this spring and expects 490 undergrads this coming fall, said Dr. Feng Wang, the civil engineering program coordinator.

Civil engineering major Trevor Meyer was among the students displaying their work at Senior Design Day this week at the Ingram School of Engineering. His group designed a sustainable and cost-effective affordable housing complex.

The project provided relevant experience for Meyer, who’s already been hired as a project engineer with a construction company in Austin.

“I think for us to reach this point is a huge accomplishment,” Meyer said. “We know how much work we’ve put in and how much our professors have pushed us to get where we are. We’re finally at a point that we can say we have an established program and proof that we can graduate some really good engineers to go out into the field.”

The civil engineering program offers foundational courses in environmental, geotechnical, materials, structural, transportation, and water resources engineering. But the program’s distinguishing feature is its holistic focus on technology-enhanced infrastructure (TEI), which applies technology to the life-cycle management of infrastructure assets. The program includes five courses that focus on TEI, and it addresses sensors, data, and analytics in its other courses.

“We weave this concept of TEI into our traditional program and offer classes that give them that flair,” Dr. Stacey Kulesza said. “We’re looking at the way the field is changing. We now expect a geotechnical engineer like myself to not only design a foundation, but also to understand how to monitor that foundation, how to handle the big data generated in continuous monitoring. That’s the way the world is evolving. We’ve catered our undergraduate program to be reflective of the needs of the industry.”

At Senior Design Day, graduating senior Bill LeFranc demonstrated the solution he and his teammates devised to improve the emergency spillway at Canyon Lake Dam. Their design included lowering the spillway and creating two retention ponds to retain water during a flood. Soil and water-level sensors would monitor the dam’s maintenance needs.

Civil engineering majors Lauren Graham, Bill LeFranc, Catalina Gonzalez, and Paola Huynh pose with TXST President Kelly Damphousse at Senior Design Day. The students’ Canyon Lake Dam project won the “Best Project Industry Choice” award.

LeFranc said he was thrilled to find out TXST was adding a civil engineering degree just as he was wrapping up his engineering prerequisites at Austin Community College. He said he’s noticed the program responding to student feedback throughout his time at TXST.

“I can see changes happening throughout the course of studying and how the department has adjusted to provide a better service,” said LeFranc, who plans to take the Fundamentals of Engineering licensing exam before fully jumping into the job market.

Wang attributes the program’s rapid growth to the College of Science and Engineering’s focus on TEI to fill a gap in the landscape of civil engineering programs. He said he’s received increasing feedback from corporations and agencies such as Texas Department of Transportation interested in Texas State civil engineering grads. At Senior Design Day, companies including Kimley-Horn and HDR and the nonprofit San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance sponsored student design projects.

Meanwhile, faculty grant funding is on the rise. Civil engineering faculty landed $6 million in grant funding between 2019 and the end of 2022, Wang said. This year, faculty already doubled that with $12 million awarded since January.

“People are getting the news and they’re figuring out this faculty really can do great things,” Wang said. “Our faculty have achieved huge progresses in a relatively short startup time despite the many challenges in building a new program. This is because we’re hiring faculty that are strong in research and also passionate in teaching and our work.”

Learn more about the Senior Design projects conducted by TXST’s first class of civil engineering graduates at the Design Day website. Projects ranged from developing affordable housing to rehabilitating dam structures, designing commuter rail systems, designing wastewater plants and facilities, and creating an airport runway pavement system design and an asphalt mix design.

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922