Environmental Engineering Planning & Project Management

Katia Swanson
Emphasis Area
Spatial Organization & Design Thinking

Katia Swanson supported current projects, project proposals, and contractor communication at NextGen Engineering.

How did you get your internship and why did you choose this opportunity?

I found my internship with NextGen Engineering through the Handshake portal (the University's free online internship and job database). I applied with the resume and cover letter I had initially drafted in the PAH 383 Pre-Internship: Building Career Readiness class. After adapting and tailoring my materials for this specific internship opportunity, I submitted an application and got a response back fairly quickly. I went through two in-person interviews and got the job!

I chose this internship because of my previous architecture experience. I have always been  interested in seeing the built environment come to life and I hope to work at the intersection of the planning/development and construction industries. NextGen Engineering, with its commitment to integrity, sustainability, and ecological best practices in civil engineering was the perfect place for me to learn, especially with their focus on educating with an emphasis on humanity and compassion.

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience?

I did many things! I worked closely with the lead planner/project manager and helped her with what she was currently working on, including drafting proposals, requests for information (RFIs), and requests for proposal (RFPs); creating GIS exhibits; and conducting proposal research. I also helped out with the PE exam prep course that NextGen teaches for the University of Arizona. Yet another task was facilitating communication with the contractors, which involved updating proposal and project forms for the firm.

What new knowledge and skills did you develop in this internship?

I learned what proposals and RFIs should look like and how to draft them. I was taught the importance of good communication between coworkers and what makes a good company culture. I learned a lot about how the world of civil engineering works and the process of getting a project up and running. I also gained insight into the idea that sometimes persistence is the key to success in this industry.

How was the internship related to your Applied Humanities degree?

I used to be an architecture major before I switched to the Applied Humanities degree. When I switched majors, I chose the emphasis area of Spatial Organization and Design Thinking, with a thematic minor in Architecture. Because I took many architecture and planning and development courses I was drawn to the internship title “Planner.” My internship is related to my degree because the engineering projects we work on at NextGen are for the betterment of the community we are building in.

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future?

During the Foundational Narrative assignment -- where we completed an informational interview with our mentor -- in the PAH 493 Internship course, I came to find out that a certification in Project Management (PMP) is very popular in the industry. This prompted me to plan to gain my PMP certification this summer. I will also be pursuing project management roles as well as roles that involve proposal writing. This internship has also prompted me to look further into jobs in the construction industry.

What advice do you have for other students as they search for their internship?

I would advise students to get multiple internships throughout their college experience. It is the best thing to put on your resume and shows that you are proactive in your professional development. Start looking early (at least four months ahead of time) as getting an internship can take time. Apply to everything, you’ll learn by experience and the more experience you have the more impressive you will be. Use the Handshake platform to your advantage, and constantly be looking, as new internships and jobs are constantly being posted. Also, send follow-up emails after you apply and after you interview. My last piece of advice is to go to the career fairs, as they are not just for business students!