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Caitlin Burke ND '11 ENVIRONMENT

AUTHOR: Allison Preston

PUBLISHED: May 21, 2018

Q: What year did you graduate?

Burke: I graduated in 2011. 


Q: What sparked your interest in engineering and environmental engineering?

Burke: I have always been interested in nature and the outdoors. While I did not study engineering specifically, I knew I wanted to combine problem-solving with my passion for the environment.


Q: What was your first job?

Burke: My first (and current) job is working with Gewalt Hamilton Associates, Inc., a civil engineering firm in Vernon Hills, Illinois. As an environmental consultant, I work with our Site Design division to perform wetland delineations. I collect data in the field to determine the wetland boundaries and secure permits from various local and federal agencies if wetland impacts are proposed. I also manage stormwater compliance for local municipalities for which we serve as the Villager Engineer, and I perform erosion control inspections on construction project sites.


Q: What has it been like working in a male-dominated field? 

Burke: While civil engineering is still very much a male-dominated field, environmental consulting is evenly represented (even slightly female-dominated). When I started my job at a civil engineering firm that is when I became aware of this disproportionate number of women engineers. As a young professional it is invaluable to have a mentor you can identify with, and the lack of female engineers makes this a challenge for women entering the field. For this reason, it is crucial that women in engineering (and other STEM fields) pursue leadership positions within their companies. Take a proactive role in changing these statistics – be that mentor you wish you had had. I see these changes taking place already in my own company.


Q: What is the best part of your job?

Burke: Getting outside and doing hands-on work. I get to dig in the dirt and collect plants – for my job! Nothing compares to seeing a project site in real life, through the various phases from planning to construction. If I can do my part to protect the wetlands and other natural resources on site in the process, then everybody wins.


Q: Do you have a workplace philosophy? 

Burke: Utilize your resources! Engineers are all about efficiency, right? Sometimes, more important than knowing all of the answers is knowing who knows the answer. In my company, we have individuals with a wide array of educational and professional backgrounds. I don’t need to be the drainage expert, the synthetic turf expert, and the ADA compliance expert. That being said, become an expert at something – that is what will allow you to make a valuable contribution to any organization.


Q: How has your Notre Dame education impacted your career trajectory?

Burke: As a student, my Notre Dame education was about making the most of my classes and graduating with the best possible grades. As an alum, I realize that my Notre Dame education has given me more than a degree, but a network of people that I have an implicit connection with - and as I have found out, a vested interest in helping me achieve my career goals.


Q: Any other advice?

Burke: You’ve heard the phrase “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. If you want to be successful in work, school, and life surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. They will constantly challenge you and encourage you to better yourself.










Categories:  Alumnae and Alumni

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