Summertime Standouts: College of Health and Human Sciences

Faith Nielsen, social work Nielsen, (social work, ’17), is staying in the land of vineyards, fashion, and food. But by studying abroad in Rome, Italy, she is also visiting the land of her ancestors.

“My great grandmother Lena Mastro Giovanni emigrated from Italy to the U.S. in the early 1900s,” Nielsen explained. “Immersing myself in my cultural heritage has been an incredible life lesson for me and my family who is lucky enough to join me on this academic journey.

Nielsen is joined by her two daughters, Makana and Malia, and her husband Corey, who is earning his master’s in social work at CSU.

Nielsen’s studies in Rome revolve around intercultural communications, with a course load focusing on Italian language and culture, cultural competence skills, and historical site visits. Cultural competence is a skill she believes all social workers should have.

“Cultural competence means you’re aware of communication patterns, oppressive histories, and non-verbal cues, so when you serve a client with a different background than your own, you can do so without hurting them unintentionally,” Nielsen explained. “I have developed a new dream since being out here that I might someday teach a study abroad course for social work students to study and learn acculturation.”

Nielsen would also like to start her own counseling practice for low income clients, and possibly take some time to practice international social work with her family— all of which require skill in cultural competence.

“It’s a skill that all social workers need to develop. We learn and talk about it a lot in class, but it hasn’t hit home until being here in a completely different culture that I really understood it,” she explained.

Nielsen was able to fulfill her dream of studying abroad in Italy thanks to the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship provides a grant for U.S. undergraduate students to study academics or to participate in credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad. The Gilman scholarship aims to expose students to different views and enrich social and cultural understanding through funding their study abroad experience.

“Being awarded the Gilman Scholarship has enabled me to participate in this amazing course that is so wonderful for my family, my education, and my profession,” Nielsen said.

Alexandra Romero, construction management

By Melissa Leavenworth

“When it comes to construction, I’ve known this was my passion since building popsicle stick bridges in the seventh grade,” said Alexandra Romero, undergraduate construction management student at CSU.

This summer, Romero is interning with Kiewit Corporation assisting with flood repairs to U.S. Route 34, which is undergoing permanent repair after damage from the 2013 flood. “While Fort Collins didn’t see as much flood activity in 2013, the portion of U.S. Route 34 that runs from Estes Park to Loveland, parallel to the Big Thompson River, was hit pretty hard,” said Romero.

Flood damage

Alexandra RomeroThe Big Thompson Canyon has experienced disaster before, notably the 1976 devastating flood; disaster struck again in 2013. Displacing many families from their homes and causing death and destruction, the flood also damaged multiple bridges and miles of roadway. Some areas were entirely washed out down to bedrock.

As the primary contractor for emergency flood repairs in 2013, Kiewit was able to reestablish access on U.S. Route 34 in two months. While the road is now drivable, the highway still requires many improvements to survive another flood event like in 2013.

In her internship, Romero focuses on pre-construction work involving planning, creating site layouts, estimates, and value engineering. She works on the structure team which collaborates on plans for a new mainline bridge, replacing an access bridge, and drilling walls in the narrows.

“The skills I’m gaining go beyond what can be taught in a classroom,” said Romero, “It’s about building relationships with management, craft, subcontractors, and suppliers. It’s about learning about your company and its culture, and expressing leadership skills even when at the bottom of the totem pole.”

Finding her path

Although Romero is an out-of-state student from Turner, Ore, CSU was a natural fit. “There’s a lot of history here for me,” said Romero about choosing CSU. Her parents attended CSU in the late 80s and early 90s, and met in the bowling alley that used to be in the LSC basement before it was destroyed by the flood of 1997.  With the intent to explore new horizons, Romero was thrilled to continue the CSU legacy in her family.

She started off in civil engineering, but discovered in her sophomore year that construction management was a more direct approach to her long-term career goals. She planned to become a bridge designer and then work her way into management as a project manager.

Alexandra RomeroShe learned that although engineering and construction trades work closely, engineers focus on what to build and construction managers figure out how to get the job done. “Construction is more hands-on, common sense, and big-picture,” said Romero. “It’s a dynamic and exciting industry, and that’s what I was looking for.”

Her love for the industry is prominent in her involvement in organizations such as the CM Board of Directors, Women in Construction, the Colorado Contractor’s Association, as well as Sigma Lambda Chi Construction Honor Society, CM Cares, and Habitat for Humanity.

After her summer internship, Romero will work with Kiewit part-time until she graduates in December. Following graduation, Romero would like to spend some time in the field, work in project management, then reach the executive level.

“My internship has given me the opportunity to get a firsthand experience of the things I have been taught in class, to expand my knowledge, and to gain practical experience before I even get my degree,” said Romero. “The Department of Construction Management has an incredible group of faculty and staff that have helped me to succeed and thrive in this industry. The connections I’ve made, opportunities I’ve been given, and knowledge I’ve picked up during my time here have been invaluable to my career and future.”

The Department of Construction Management is a part of the CSU College of Health and Human Sciences.