How I chose my major: Civil Engineering

a student works with advanced machinery

In the “How I chose my major” series, we showcase the academic paths CSU students have taken, and students tell their stories in their own words. Read on to meet Sami, a CSU Civil Engineering major, and learn how she decided it was a perfect fit for her dreams and goals.

My first taste of engineering

As someone who grew up watching way too much Jimmy Neutron, my childhood aspirations typically revolved around becoming a scientist, an inventor, a builder, an astronaut, or the like. Though these goals may seem a bit ambitious to some, if you possess the drive and the discipline to study engineering, these dreams are anything but far-fetched. When I was younger, I thought an engineer was just someone who drove a train. Now I know that engineers are the people that so many of us grew up aspiring to be: scientists, inventors, builders, astronauts, world changers.

Part creative inspiration, part science and technology

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to be an engineer in my 7th-grade science class while watching a documentary about the engineering behind Disney World, showcasing roller coasters, the iconic monorail, the innovative interactive technology … all, of course, with a little splash of Disney magic. The people behind this, appropriately named “Disney Imagineers” show that creativity and engineering are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Though engineers do possess a great deal of technical knowledge (in CSU engineering, you’ll likely dive deep into subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, computer science, and more), it takes a creative mind to take those concepts and turn them into something tangible.

Dreams into action: My internship

After discovering that engineering was for me, the next challenge was deciding on the type of engineering to pursue. I ended up deciding to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering; I love the idea of creating such large and impactful projects that benefit communities worldwide. The roads we drive on, the water we drink, the buildings we live and work in, and so much more can be attributed to engineers. Last summer, I had the opportunity to intern with one of the largest engineering consultants in the world and was a part of the project controls team for a light rail extension just outside of Seattle, Washington. Upon its completion, it will allow commuters to have affordable and easy access to transportation to and from the city. In the future, I hope to continue working on community projects like this that promote sustainable development and improve the community’s quality of life.

Engineering is a multi-player game

This work could not be done without engineers of all disciplines working together; interdisciplinary collaboration and sharing of knowledge is what makes large-scale projects like these possible. Take, for example, a rocket launch. Civil engineers may be responsible for laying the launch pad. Mechanical engineers, who specialize in systems and machines, might design the body of the rocket and the machinery required to put it together. Electrical engineers, who design circuits and systems, would contribute to making sure all electrical components run properly. Computer scientists and computer engineers may also be involved, programming and automating the software used. Chemical engineers, who do a lot of work with fuel, pharmaceuticals, and even food products, might create the fuel for the rocket or even the freeze-dried meals for the astronauts themselves. Biomedical engineers could contribute to ensuring the health and safety of the crew, perhaps taking part in the design of the space suits or the physical preparation and health examination of the astronauts. It’s because of this team of talented individuals working together that a project like this is able to get off the ground.

Engineering is everywhere

Look around the room you’re in. It’s likely that most everything you see is the result of engineering. As I dive deeper and deeper into my studies, my day-to-day perspective has shifted to seeing the world through an “engineering lens.” Despite my increased understanding of the world, I find myself pondering the creation behind products big and small, from the tiniest microchip to the largest aircraft to the most-booming cities. Though engineering is indeed a challenging degree, I find that the excitement of getting to play a role in shaping the world around me makes all the hard work worth it. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a project you’ve put so much work into become reality.


Sami is a Civil Engineering major at CSU. She works as an Engineering Student Ambassador and is a student in the University Honors Program. She is also heavily involved with the Society of Women Engineers, serving as its publicity coordinator, and she holds a leadership role within the CSU Navigators, a student ministry on campus. In her free time, Sami loves hanging out with friends, hiking, rock climbing, and swing dancing, but you’re most likely to find her at a coffee shop working hard.