Bulldogs thrive in the bayou

March 20, 2010

First Row L-R:Adam Granberry, Kyle Cassidy, Jo Ann Rosenfeld (recruiter), Keith Ferguson, Tyler Sholes, Jenny Honeycutt, and Maggie Fournier Second Row L-R: Otho Barnes, Anthony Pegues, Chris Rogers, Cary Carpenter, Jason Burge, and Heather Craft


Cowbells might soon replace Mardi Gras beads as the must-have accessory in New Orleans, La., as civil engineers from the Bagley College of Engineering work to leave their mark on the city’s infrastructure.

Despite being firmly in “Tiger” territory, the New Orleans office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has hired 12 Bulldog engineers to fill positions for the post-Hurricane Katrina construction boom. And since recruiters from the office left last month’s MSU career fair with a stack of résumés, it appears poised to hire even more.

“The reason we went to MSU in 2007 was because some older State alumni said we should, and you know what? They were right,” explained Jo Ann Rosenfeld, a career program specialist. “Other engineering recruiters must agree because the university had to start holding a special career day just for science, technology and engineering.”

For about 10 years, Rosenfeld has been recruiting fresh talent for the corps’ New Orleans office. Although she is a Tiger at heart, the Louisiana State University graduate has been so impressed with MSU and its people that she gladly considers herself an adopted Bulldog.
“I love working with MSU graduates. They are just easy to work with and ready to share any knowledge they have,” Rosenfeld said. “Since 2007 we have continued to recruit at the university because we have found State students to be very intelligent and disciplined. They are ready to hit the ground running, work well with others on a team and are always well-mannered and respectful. Those are just some of the attributes we appreciate.”

Rosenfeld’s first post-Katrina Bulldog hire was construction manager Jennie Honeycutt, which started a chain-reaction: Honeycutt helped recruit Kyle Cassidy, who then recruited Cary Carpenter and so on. This year, it was 2009 graduates Keith Ferguson, an office engineer, and construction manager Maggie Fournier who visited Starkville to woo graduating students.

“It’s great being back to recruit, but being on this side is completely different. I can remember being here, nervous, wondering if someone would hire me,” Fournier confessed while at the annual MSU Career Fair. “I was very thankful that the corps was here. Getting a degree in engineering was the best decision I ever made and I feel like my degree from MSU has really started me off on the right foot.”
She added, “I’m sure right now things are discouraging for graduating students, with many companies not hiring, but don’t give up. I felt the same way my senior year. Things will work out. The important thing is to keep an open mind.”

Although their booth was small and adorned only with a simple display board, Fournier and Ferguson were so busy attending eager applicants that they barely had time to discuss what it was like on the other side of the table. It would appear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pretty much recruits for itself and Fournier believes she knows why.

“There aren’t many cities in the United States that compare to New Orleans. It’s a city that is perfect for getting a well-rounded experience in civil engineering,” she said. “To me, it’s a great job to start out with because I get to see all the different types of projects and what everyone else does for the organization.”
With hurricane recovery and preparation efforts under way, the New Orleans corps is currently involved in everything from levee construction to wetland protection, including millions of dollars worth of contracts under the supervision of recent Mississippi Sate graduates. While that may seem like a lot of responsibility for people less than five years out of college, Carpenter, a West Point native, says MSU graduates have no problem handling the pressure.

“Our faculty push you to think on your own. A lot of what I do requires decision making, which, along with problem solving, is something my classes taught me. You have to develop those skills to pass the curriculum at State,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter works primarily on projects pertaining to the Southeast Louisiana flood land and marsh restoration. Like most engineers, he enjoys the challenge and problem-solving parts of his job, but the former National Guardsman also enjoys the multiple roles he must play as a construction manager.
“I like going out to the field, being at the construction sites. It lets me see hands-on how things are being done. It’s a chance to be outdoors and some sites are beautiful with cypress trees and alligators everywhere. Plus, part of the job is problem solving and those problems usually start right there at the site,” Carpenter said.

For more information about BCoE civil engineering graduates working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, specifically Jennie Honeycutt’s part in managing a nearly $1 billion project, check out Momentum magazine, which will be hitting mailboxes this month.

By: Susan Lassetter