STV Engineering Specialist Gives Back To ACE Mentor Program
Feb 25, 2021
As a kid growing up outside Albany, Dejana Harris, EIT, a civil engineering specialist in STV’s Transportation & Infrastructure Division in New York, loved math and science. She excelled in chemistry in high school and thought she might become a chemical engineer someday. She pictured herself in a lab coat, conducting experiments. But when she got to college, she began second guessing her chemical engineering major.
“Chemistry just got so abstract,” Harris said. “I wanted to switch to something more visual. You can see bridges and roads and buildings.”
Harris changed her major to civil engineering. Today, she is in her fourth year working at STV. And she says she has the ACE (Architecture Construction Engineering) Mentor Program to thank.
For many high school students, ACE, a free after school program that is hosted by various design and construction firms, including STV, is their introduction to a career in architecture, construction or engineering. STV’s Greater New York (GNY) Chapter team meets weekly, and each year they focus on developing a design project chosen by the students. At the end of the year, the students present their work to their families and peers.
Harris participated in ACE as a high school senior. Once at STV, she immediately signed up to become an ACE mentor herself. She now co-leads STV’s GNY team. With today being Girl Day – a worldwide campaign to engage girls in engineering that is part of the larger National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Engineers Week celebration – Harris’s career arc from mentee to mentor is a perfect example of how programs like ACE can help the NSPE achieve its worthwhile mission.
“Through ACE, I learned about disciplines in engineering that I didn’t even know existed. I had no idea how many different types of engineers there were,” Dejana said. “When I ended up switching my major, I had a little bit of knowledge about each one.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Harris and her fellow ACE mentors are still active, meeting with students via Zoom instead of in the office.
“Being a mentor, whether through ACE or another program, is especially important today, when a lot of programs cannot continue. Giving young people opportunities to have healthy, extracurricular activity is so needed right now,” Harris said. “It is such a great feeling to know that we have had a hand in each student learning and growing.”