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Lyles College of Engineering

Alysha Curtis

Civil engineering student receives national recognition

Alysha Curtis was the only woman to earn an engineering degree in her graduating class at the College of the Sequoias – where she earned 11 associate degrees including engineering, theatre and communication studies.

She transferred to Fresno State in 2021 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a minor in construction management from the Lyles College of Engineering. And now she has been honored as the 2022 Collegiate New Face of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“This is probably the biggest recognition I've received,” Curtis said. “Many times throughout my educational career I have been the only woman in a room full of men so receiving this honor confirmed that I chose the correct path.”

The New Faces of Civil Engineering program highlights 10 up-and-coming civil engineering leaders from around the country and celebrates their academic achievements and commitment to serving others.

Curtis’s advocacy work began while attending COS when she became involved in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program and Students Integrating Numerical Education club. 

She also volunteered for the Tulare County Office of Education’s Expanding Your Horizons program for three years. The program includes hands-on activities and workshops for girls in grades 4 through 12 led by women in STEM-related careers.

“For me, it's always about being the woman or the person that I wanted to have as a role model when I was a kid, and so by giving others the opportunities I wish I had, that's really what drives me,” Curtis said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Curtis did K-12 outreach through the Ignite Your Curiosity program, which hosts monthly webinars for students to hear from various industries and explore career possibilities. 

Curtis became president of Fresno State’s American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter this year. She is also active with the Society’s global Student Presidential Group where she represents the Construction Institute and Student Ambassador Program and helps to elevate the voices of students in society decision-making.

“This recognition is quite impressive,” said Dr. Kimberly Stillmaker, associate professor of civil engineering at Fresno State. “I think it speaks to the quality of students that we have here at Fresno State and Alysha, in particular, is very outstanding. She is highly immersed in ASCE and is doing a phenomenal job leading our chapter.”

Curtis is also heavily involved in the Society of Women Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers student chapters.

“One of the things that really impressed me when I met her was her focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and the need for that in this field,” Stillmaker said . “Women are underrepresented in STEM, as well as some minority groups, and it’s important that they feel and see that engineering is for them.”

In addition to national recognition, Curtis was also named the 2022-23 Outstanding Civil Engineering Student for the San Francisco Section and Fresno Parent Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She was also awarded the 2022 Construction Institute Student Days Best Speaker Award.

Originally planning to focus on water, she was one of the captains of the Fresno State water treatment team that competes annually at the Mid-Pacific Conference before finding her calling in the geotechnical branch of civil engineering. Curtis said she was drawn to working with soil and seeing how it can handle the weight of buildings.

“I have a deep passion for water, and I have a deep passion for our environment so everything that I've done is really to help make sure everything below and above ground moving forward is going to be more sustainable and also more environmentally friendly,” Curtis said.

Curtis credits her three-year internship with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service that concluded earlier this year for providing her with the opportunities to get hands-on experience as an engineer while staying true to her ethics. 

Curtis plans on entering the construction industry after graduating and finding a company that works with sustainable infrastructure. She also plans on returning to Fresno State to pursue a master’s degree.

“I just really want to inspire the next generation and I hope that when they see or hear about the work that I’ve done then maybe they will say, ‘I need to try engineering,’” Curtis said.