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Joe Benco '93 on Environmental Remediation and His Notre Dame Education

Allison Preston • DATE: October 9, 2018

 

Q: What is your current title and what are some of the responsibilities that come with your job?

Benco: I am the Vice President of Engineering Technical Support at Republic Services, Inc. In my job, I do quite a bit of planning, budgeting, and resource allocation. We are a company that builds a lot of landfills and part of constructing landfills is building liners underneath and gas systems to make sure we are collecting anything that may impact the environment in a negative way. 

 

Q: What was your undergraduate experience like in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences (CEEES)? 

Benco: I graduated in '93 and studied civil engineering. At that time, environmental engineering was only a concentration. I really enjoyed the environmental classes and got into microbiology and environmental remediation. I had the opportunity to work on groundwater tracking projects and worked as an undergraduate researcher for one of the professors. That led to an internship with the forest preserve district that had some landfills they were remediating. That pulled me into the industry where I am today.

There were a lot of late nights in the computer labs that, at the time, I did not relish. But there was an important skill I was learning in terms of understanding what is going on when you run a computer model or when you get a finished product. It taught me to think, "does the output make sense?" All of those late nights in the weeds prepared me to be questioning and appropriately analyzing end products. 

 

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

Benco: My education at Notre Dame has been very helpful from a values perspective and a breadth perspective. There are a lot of great engineering schools that create great technicians but the focus on the liberal arts aspect and nontechnical skills were still important, and have proven to be really helpful today. 

 

Q: What are some of the skills you think students need right now?

Benco: An undergraduate degree from the university gives you a solid foundation to build off of. When you hit the working world with an undergraduate degree, you are not going to know everything you need to know. But you know how to think and how to problem solve so you are prepared to go out and continue to learn and grow in your career path. 

 

Q: What developments are on the horizon in the field of environmental remediation?

Benco: Solid waste has changed tremendously in the 20 years that I have been involved with it, and it continues to change. Just this year we are seeing a change in the way the world uses raw materials. You are seeing markets develop in the United States for the recycled materials that we previously sent elsewhere in the world. There is always some new and interesting challenge in terms of recycling and remediation. It is a very dynamic business.