Jessica Smith – Transportation Engineer
“I am so excited to be working in this industry, but I could not have succeeded without that initial shout of ‘you can do it’ from the faculty and staff at CCC&TI. Thank you!”
It's not surprising that a love of travel and adventure, as well as a brain for engineering and math have landed Caldwell County native and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute alumnae Jessica Smith on the road to success. What some may find surprising is that the road has taken her all the way to the "Last Frontier" in Fairbanks, Alaska where the 28-year-old now lives and works as a Transportation Planner.
Smith was not your typical community college student. After enrolling as a home-schooled high school student to get a jumpstart on her college education, she went on to earn not one, not two, but three degrees at CCC&TI!
Smith, who was home-schooled through all of her K-12 education, says “obviously, I couldn’t make up my mind.” Smith earned her Associate in Arts for college transfer courses, her Associates in Fine Arts, Music Specialist and an Associates in Science, Pre-Engineering. “CCC&TI offered a great program for exploration in core college courses overall, yet I wanted to get more involved with the applied math and science as well,” she says.
Smith says one of the best things she learned as a student at CCC&TI was how to ask questions. “This may seem simple,” she says, “but asking the right question can help with a course assignment or it can land you a job during an interview. The good questions can make you stand out as a student or make you a successful businessperson.”
After earning her three degrees at CCC&TI, Smith went on to earn two more additional degrees: her Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, Transportation Systems from North Carolina State University.
In 2009, Smith went to work for The Louis Berger Group, Inc., a private engineering company with offices all over the world, as a Transportation Engineer and went on to work as a Research Assistant with the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State.
Always up for new and exciting ventures, Smith decided to explore things a bit further from home and landed a job as a Transportation Planner with the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System in sunny Fairbanks, Alaska. "Here in Fairbanks, I am involved with all sorts of projects, both professional and personal, related to transportation, including a Public Art Project in the DOT right-of-way, the design of the new FMATS website, local planning projects galore, and my own little project, an adventure travel blog focused on exploring Alaska, one accidental adventure at a time that people can check out at http://theaccidentalpurpose.wordpress.com”
Despite her long list of accomplishments, Smith says she has plenty of things still left on her "to-do" list including more travel, starting her own business and one day returning to the educational side of things, although, these days, her sites are set a bit higher than student. "One day I'd still like to go back to working in academia – this time doing something like Dr. Boham's job," she says with a smile.
Smith says that after two institutions and 10 months in Alaska's subarctic temperatures, she has come to appreciate her roots more than ever. "It was CCC&TI and the community there that shaped me into the person I am today, and even though I've since attended 2 large universities, I still consider CCC&TI my primary alma mater," says Smith. " No matter where I travel, I will always be a Carolina girl and always a proud CCC&TI grad."