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Lisa Hoekenga – Where She is Now

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Lisa Hoekenga– Where She is Now

When Lisa Hoekenga received the WTS Molitoris Leadership Scholarship, she was an undergraduate student. Today, she leads projects at Michael Baker International and is President of the WTS Northeast Ohio Chapter. WTS sat down with Lisa to learn more about where her WTS scholarship has led her, and what she sees in her future.

WTS: Which WTS scholarship did you receive?

LH: I received the Louise Moritz Molitoris Leadership Award from the WTS Wisconsin Chapter during my last year of my undergraduate studies at Marquette University. I was working as a co-op for HNTB and a WTS member that I worked with encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. I went on to win the WTS International Molitoris Leadership Award in 2005 as well. At the time, I don’t know that I understood the gravity of the award. However, now that I have had the opportunity to review so many WTS scholarship applicants, I am very humbled to be among so many amazing women in our industry. 

WTS: What were you studying at the time you received your scholarship?

LH: I was in my final year at Marquette University, about to complete my B.S. in Civil Engineering. Soon after receiving the scholarship, I continued on to graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh to start my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering with a focus in Structural Engineering. 

WTS: What is the timeline of your career path since receiving that scholarship?

LH: When I step back and look at the big picture it has been quite a journey! I received the WTS International Molitoris Leadership Scholarship in the spring of 2005, and in January 2017 I began my term as President of the WTS Northeast Ohio Chapter. By taking on this role I am actualizing the promise of this scholarship and, I have to say, I think it’s really a testimony to the potential energy we hold as an organization. To fill in the history of the last 12 years, I completed my undergraduate degree in May of 2005 and went on to pursue my Master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. I completed that degree in December of 2006 and moved to Chicago where I started working for Edwards and Kelcey, a company that was soon thereafter acquired by Jacobs Engineering. I worked for Jacobs for 8 years and then moved to Cleveland and joined the team at Michael Baker International in 2015.   

WTS: What do you do in your current role?

LH: I am the Railroad Structures Lead for the Michael Baker Cleveland Office. I am responsible for developing our Railroad Structures practice in Ohio and I am working to help grow the Rail/Transit practice for Michael Baker International. I am also a Project Manager and Project Engineer for structural designs of rail and highway bridges. 

WTS: What is it about the transportation industry that keeps you excited?

LH: Transportation is so essential to our economy and is woven into the past, present, and future issues of our country and our world. When transportation systems are working well and efficiently they open up opportunities for everyone. I also love that the transportation industry is comprised of so many fields; from the bus drivers to the city planners to the air traffic controllers. The transportation industry impacts everyone on a daily basis. 

WTS: How did your WTS scholarship help get you to where you are today?

LH: Speaking strictly from a financial perspective, the scholarship helped me to finance my graduate degree. I left my undergraduate degree with some loans to pay off, however I was able to finance my graduate degree through the WTS scholarship, other scholarships, and a Teaching Assistant position. On the larger scale, the WTS scholarship created an opening for me to connect with so many women in my industry over an extended period of time. It made me aware of the women in this field and gave me the confidence to continue to advance myself and to encourage other women. These connections have helped me in my career; specifically it helped me to connect with my current employer, which ultimately led to a job change. 

WTS: Do you feel that WTS is a worthwhile organization for others to be a part of? Why?

LH: Absolutely. I think that the network you can build through WTS is essential to career growth. I have been a part of the WTS Chicago Chapter as well as the Northeast Ohio Chapter, and the connections I have made through those chapters have helped me grow to where I am today.  I’ve also been given countless opportunities for professional development. I’ve been mentored and worked as a mentor. I have grown in my understanding of the transportation industry and its many facets and nuances. I think that WTS International’s mission to advance equity and access for women benefits every member and everyone involved in the transportation industry. 

WTS: Where do you see yourself going next?

LH: I am looking forward to building on the work I’ve been doing since moving to Cleveland and I would love to grow in my role is a project manager and continue to help develop business for Michael Baker International. Also, I have recently become interested in the possibility of running for local office to make more of a difference in my community.  

 

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