For civil engineering senior Danielle Nixon, engineering runs in the family. An unlikely route, it was her cousin’s bridal shower that prompted Nixon to become involved with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and eventually apply for a WE@BYU Mentorship.
Nixon’s first exposure to engineering was her father’s job as a civil engineer. “When I was in high school, my dad had to work over in Saudi Arabia, and so I’d ask him about his projects and it sounded really fascinating,” she said. “I decided that when I got to college, I’d just try it [engineering] out.”
Before attending BYU, Nixon was at the bridal shower of her cousin, a BYU mechanical engineering student. There, Nixon met Lisa Barrager, coordinator of women student initiatives for the Ira A. Fulton College. Barrager also spoke to Nixon about the benefits of choosing engineering as a major, and joining SWE.
After speaking to her family and Barrager, Nixon was convinced — she wanted to pursue a career in engineering. She eventually settled on civil engineering and became involved in the major as soon as she got to BYU. One of the ways Nixon became involved was by joining SWE.
Nixon first heard about the WE@BYU Mentorship after receiving her invitation to the WE@BYU Annual Celebration. The invitation also included a form to apply for the mentorship. The WE@BYU Mentorship gives first- and second- year female students the chance to work on research projects and be guided by a mentor. Nixon decided to fill it out the form on a whim, and much to her dismay, was chosen for a mentorship.
“It was by chance,” Nixon said. “It was crazy, I was so happy”
Nixon’s mentor was W. Spencer Guthrie, a civil and environmental engineering professor. Nixon said she worked on a variety of different projects while being mentored by Guthrie, such as completing quality assurance checks, washing rocks or accompanying the research group onto bridge decks.
“I was kind of the one who bounced around from all of the different graduate students,” she said. “If a graduate student needed help, they would email me and I would do whatever they needed.”
Nixon said that Dr. Guthrie taught her the importance of quality in her work. This motivated Nixon to work harder and make sure all her work was done correctly.
“I learned that hard work is really important, and that the quality of your work is even more important,” she said. “He [Guthrie] always says, ‘you get what you inspect, not what you expect.’”
Nixon explained that another benefit from her mentorship was that she learned that professors really do care about their students. She said she could always go to Guthrie if she had any questions, and that he was always there to give his students guidance. Nixon said of professors, “They’re not just there to teach us, they’re also there to help us grow and learn.”
Having completed her mentorship, Nixon recommends it to everyone. She said, “I think everyone should try to get the mentorship because it is really good for the students to get to know the professors personally and to see the research side of engineering.”
Nixon is now a mentor for young women herself. She said that the best advice she can give for the women she mentors is to go and talk to their professors. “They totally want you to succeed, and they totally want you to do the best that you can, and they are going to be there for you no matter what,” Nixon said.
Nixon looks forward to graduating this month and starting her position in the public services department for Provo city.