Not afraid of hard conversations and rising to challenges, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering alumnae Jamie Graham, Sandra Bucklew and Victoria Howard use their leadership skills to advocate for the Big Bend chapter of the Florida Engineering Society (FES). Howard, who graduated with a master’s degree in civil engineering in 2017, is the latest of the three to serve as president of the organization. A two-time alum, she also received a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the college in 2015.
“FES promotes and defends the professional interests of all engineers in Florida,” Howard said. “I hope as president I can use technology to reach potential members. I want to build on what Sandra Bucklew, our former president, has done for our chapter.”
Howard was installed as president of the FES Big Bend chapter in a virtual ceremony in July 2020. She is the third woman in a row from FAMU-FSU Engineering’s civil and environmental engineering department to serve in the elected position. Howard currently works as a Drainage Engineer for DRMP, a top engineering design firm that employs over 500 professionals in offices throughout the United States.
“Having three female civil engineering graduates from FAMU-FSU Engineering to serve consecutively as president of the Big Bend FES is pretty big news,” Lisa Spainhour, Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said. “It’s exciting to see Jamie, Sandra and Victoria elected to officer positions by their peers. They all are also strong supporters of the college, from mentoring senior design teams to conducting the Order of the Engineer ceremony. I am very proud of each of them.”
Graham graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 2003 and works for DHM|Melvin Engineering as a structural building engineer. When she served as president of the Big Bend FES, one of the biggest challenges she faced was a massive hurricane that hit the region.
“When I was president, Hurricane Michael devastated North Florida and South Georgia,” Graham said. “Our members stepped up to aid the community. We worked with recovery efforts and teamed up with our local ASCE chapter and were able to collect a lot of much- needed supplies.”
Graham served as president of FES in 2018, and was recently elected Vice President for Region 1. She will begin serving at the state level in August 2020.
“One thing I like to tell students is that there is no better networking than to form friendships while in college,” Graham said. ”I find myself surrounded by FAMU-FSU Engineering alumni through both my work and at FES, and it’s these relationships that propel me to work hard for my engineering community.”
Bucklew graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1991 and served as president of the Big Bend FES in 2019-2020. Her tenure as president in the spring of 2020 faced a new challenge with the onset of COVID-19. She saw FES rise to the challenge and even found some advantages of hosting virtual chapter meetings as a way for more members to attend. She finished her term in July when Howard was appointed in a virtual swearing-in ceremony and continues to support the organization.
“While serving as president, I tried hard to provide a President’s message each month on topics like inclusion, racism, mentorship of women engineers, and other relevant topics, in the hope that I would be to able reach our membership in a different manner,” Bucklew said. “If just one person took a little extra time to think and reflect on any one topic I wrote about, then I feel like that effort was worthwhile.”
Bucklew is a Senior Project Engineer with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., and is involved with the Florida Department of Transportation on many highway and bridge construction projects.
“For our professional organization, it has been exciting to have had so many women in leadership positions through the years,” Bucklew said. “It is even more thrilling to have had the privilege of working with these women and experience the caliber of graduates that have come from FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.”
FES is divided into seven regions in the state; Region 1 in the Panhandle includes the Big Bend region (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla Counties). The mission of FES is to support engineering education, advocate licensure, and to promote the ethical and competent practice of engineering as well as to enhance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the profession.
“Engineers continue to need more training in soft skills—things like teamwork, management, and communications,” Spainhour said. “Seeing three female graduates in consecutive leadership positions in the FES Big Bend chapter reminds me that our college is graduating women who not only excel in these skills but who are applying them to the betterment of our profession.”