Saturday’s graduation marked a day of firsts for Colorado Mesa University as the spring commencement ended up having to be held in the heart of summer. For the six students graduating from CMU’s first civil engineering class, some had already started their careers before collecting their diplomas.

Recent graduate Eric Berg already started work at a civil engineering and design company in Reno, Nevada, moving shortly after finishing classes.

Though the final stretch was perhaps the toughest of the program, as he and students across the country were forced to move their work to virtual platforms, he said the program was a great fit for what he wanted to do.

CMU Civil Engineering Instructor Joel Sholtes said that while CMU has had a mechanical engineering program for several years, the new civil engineering students were paired with new professors.

Sholtes, along with his wife Kari Sholtes, and Ulises Techera taught the course, which was created through a partnership between CMU and CU Boulder. The program offered students the opportunity to earn a CU Boulder bachelor’s degree from Grand Junction.

“I got to save money on CU tuition but didn’t have to live in Boulder, which was definitely a plus,” Berg said.

They spent their first two years as CMU students, earning a 3.0 GPA or higher, while completing physical science or engineering degree planning courses.

Sholtes said civil engineering helps keep society running.

“Civil engineers plan roadways and bridges, wastewater treatment plants and things that keep Grand Junction running,” he said.

One thing Sholtes was most proud of was that all his students were employed heading to graduation, with jobs designing infrastructure and developing roadways.

“Having been our first class, we’re very proud of them,” he added.

For their final senior design project, the civil engineering students worked with the city of Grand Junction and Colorado Department of Transportation to redesign a culvert in town.

After starting the project in January, finishing it became much more difficult with in-person interactions canceled.

“They did an amazing job to keep the momentum going and to get the projects done. They presented them online and did a lot of the heavy lifting calculations,” Sholtes said.

The designs were for a culvert on Highway 134 in the Redlands on the way to Fruita.

He felt the experience provided them a chance to see what meeting virtually will look like professionally.

CMU hosted in-person commencement ceremonies on Saturday. The graduating class was separated into three ceremonies, held at Suplizio Field and Maverick Field.

CU Engineering students graduated at Maverick Field at 9:30 a.m, along with biology, health sciences, and other programs.

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