Student Profile: Steven Borntrager (CivE, 2013)

We all find our own way through life—and through college. Three graduates illustrate three successful, albeit different, paths through a civil engineering education at the University of Minnesota. Steven Borntrager made an effort to connect with students and involve himself in on-campus activities. Kathryn Klarich sought out opportunities to travel, and Noah Kimmes aimed for graduate school.

In his Air Force career, Steven Borntrager (CivE, 2013) was responsible for “everything behind the cockpit: we managed weight and balance on the plane, set up rigging for airdrop loads, and opened the door for paratroopers. The C-130 is the smallest cargo plane in the Air Force. It could go where bigger planes could not. We could drop up to 42,000 pounds out the back of the plane in midair and land it on a drop zone. If you couldn’t land on a runway, or if you wanted equipment to build a runway, this is how it was done. A lot of what I learned on the airplane was practical application of engineering principles and that applied to my CE classes. Now, I know why it all works.”

On campus Steven made specific efforts to connect with other students and get involved. He participated on the Steel Bridge Team twice. The first year he ended up being the build team lead during competition. “We did well. We got the fastest build time and won regionals. The next year I became one of the captains. I helped with fabricating and was again the build team lead.”

Steven’s family came to watch the Steel Bridge Competition. He brought his family to campus as often as he could; being on campus helped his kids understand what he was doing. “We give the CE department credit for my son Adam’s interest in engineering. He played with the Department’s liquefaction table at the Family Fun Fair and the State Fair and chose to do his science project on liquefaction. His interest comes directly from that experience.” Adam’s liquefaction project turned out so well, he will go to the regional competition. (The next Math & Science Family Fun Fair will be Saturday, November 22, 2014.)

Steven found studying with others to be extremely valuable. He sought out a student study group, and says they deserve half the credit for getting him to graduation—but Steven is a generous guy!

Steven also participated in the CSE Mentor Program, where he was paired with Jihshya Lin (MSCE 1986, Principal Engineer, MnDOT Bridge Office) as his mentor. They began meeting just three weeks after Steven started at UMN. “We met on a weekly basis and Jihshya would ask me about my classes, help with homework, or talk about my career. Jihshya was very receptive to whatever I needed. He helped me with my resume and prepped me for interviews. He introduced me around and got me out in the community—I hadn’t planned on that when I started the CSE Mentor program, but it has been great. He even came and talked to the steel bridge team—it never hurts to have a 30-year engineer looking over your designs!”

“I’ve encouraged other students to get involved with the CSE Mentor Program; everyone has a positive experience in that program! Jihshya pays it back—he must believe he got treated pretty well here!”

Steven, too, has been paying it back— and forward—throughout his time in CE. On the day of this interview, he was on campus volunteering with the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers’ MATHCounts! program.

The next phase in Steven’s life will take him to Massachusetts; his wife is leading this expedition. “She’s left three jobs to follow me. Now it is her turn.” They will move when the children finish their school year. Until then, Steven has been working part time with Professional Engineering Services; he was an intern last summer and now works as an Engineer In Training.

Steven is especially interested in testing and monitoring structures or, perhaps, designing airports, which would build on his Air Force experience. He wants a job he can be enthusiastic about. Given Steven’s positive attitude and penchant for connecting with people, such a job should not be hard to find