Senior Natalie Palmquist was recently named one of the Top 10 New Faces of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Palmquist, a Rhodes Scholar finalist, was one of 10 students recognized by the ASCE. The honor highlights up-and-coming leaders in civil engineering and celebrates both their academic achievements and commitment to serving others, according to a University press release.
“It is an honor to have my name listed among so many inspirational new graduates,” Palmquist said. “I loved reading through their bios and seeing the endless ways we each hope to make an impact.”
Palmquist serves as president of the Auburn University Engineers without Borders chapter and is the Rwandan team leader. One of the group’s projects included developing a water distribution and storage system for a local school that did not have access to clean water.
When contacted via email regarding the ASCE’s announcement, Palmquist was on the ground in Rwanda working with Venture 2 Impact as part of a spring break volunteer trip.
“This volunteer work is less in line with my engineering degree and more aligned with my minor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies,” she said. “I want to learn a little bit more about how small business can impact developing communities.”
Andrzej Nowak, professor and department chair of civil engineering, said this award comes as a culmination of Palmquist’s efforts as a student.
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“This is a major national-level accomplishment,” he said. “We are very, very proud that Auburn has a student who was selected for this honor.”
Her former classmate, Amy Ragan, said she was thrilled when she found out Palmquist received this recognition.
“I was very proud and not surprised at all,” Ragan said. “She is well-deserving and represents Auburn and all civil engineers well.”
“Inside and outside of the classroom, Natalie is determined to do what is right and to help anyone that she can reach, always with an amount of passion and energy that most people can’t muster on a good day,” she added.
Palmquist said when Robert Barnes, associate professor in the department of civil engineering, heard about ASCE’s program, he suggested she apply.
“My structural engineering professor, Dr. Barnes, sent me the link and encouraged me to apply,” she said. “I was honored that he thought I would be a good candidate for the recognition, so I applied.”
Barnes said Palmquist encompasses the Auburn Creed, and the ASCE’s announcement further strengthens the department’s mission.
“Natalie has been a very strong leader over the past few years,” he said. “It’s great validation of our undergraduate program in what we’re doing here in terms of preparing students.”
Palmquist credits the University for providing her the opportunities that have helped her pursue her dreams.
“As people see my name listed, I hope they don’t overlook the University underneath it because Auburn has brought me to where I am today,” she said. “It is through Auburn that I have seen the breadth of services civil engineers have to offer.”
The announcement comes during Women’s History Month. Palmquist hopes her achievement will empower other women to join engineering programs, which are largely seen as male-dominated fields.
“I am hopeful for a number of 50-50, that is where I see the ratio of female to male engineers being in 30 years,” she said. “Women are very capable engineers, they just need to be shown the impact it can have on people.”
Barnes agreed and said long-held stereotypes have caused many to think women are not as capable as men when it comes to engineering.
“We in the field know that women excel in engineering and civil engineering,” he said. “From time to time, we do get disappointed that fewer people, fewer women, enter studies for civil engineering.”
However, he hopes that Palmquist’s recognition by the ASCE will encourage other women to consider civil engineering as a career.
“If Natalie being identified as one of the Top 10 New Faces of Civil Engineering helps us to pull more females, in particular, to civil engineering, the profession and the world will be better for it,” Barnes said.
Palmquist is looking into various graduate school options to further her civil engineering education.
Her hope is to someday work long-term in Africa, she said. The support from her professors and classmates has nurtured her drive for success.
“Overall, it’s important to get connected with people and have fun,” she said. “Earning your degree is a team effort, and those relationships you build will last well beyond graduation.”
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