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Four CCEE graduates win Outstanding Senior Awards for demonstrating excellence in undergraduate studies

All CCEE graduates shine in their own way, using their degrees to create and improve sustainable infrastructure for the betterment of society. There are a select few, however, that demonstrate continued excellence during their undergraduate studies. Each spring, the department recognizes these students with four Outstanding Senior Awards.

This year, the awards went to: Nadia Sheppard for Humanities, which recognizes high achievement in CCEE with an equal commitment to a broad liberal education in the social sciences, arts or humanities; Hunter Bowman for Leadership, which recognizes demonstrated ability to provide guidance and direction within organizations and individually; Haley Beard for Citizenship and Service, which recognizes significant humanitarian contributions that improve the welfare of fellow citizens and the community; and Kylee May for Scholarly Achievement, which recognizes exceptional academic performance including participation in undergraduate research. 

Read more about what makes each of these outstanding grads exceptional and their plans for continued excellence looking toward the future. 


Humanities: Nadia Sheppard

Sheppard first found her long-standing passion for environmental justice among the leafy greens of her high school’s student-run farm, sparking what she describes as a “burning curiosity” about global food production. Her interest drove her to take a gap year to work on small, diversified vegetable farms across the country. 

“Each farm had their own issues with water quantity or quality, reinforcing my interest in environmental engineering,” Sheppard said. “However, I was still interested in studying sustainable food systems. This intellectual curiosity motivated me to pursue a minor in agroecology and continues to push me to be an interdisciplinary scholar.”

Sheppard, who is a Park Scholar, has built upon her collegiate experience at NC State by getting out into the field and getting her hands dirty — literally. As a research intern at the Rodale Institute, an organic agriculture research institute in Pennsylvania, she designed and implemented a study that demonstrated how cover-cropping with rye can reduce dependence on herbicides. Sheppard, who is a member of National German Honors Society Delta Phi Alpha, also received the German Academic Exchange Service Research Internship in Science and Engineering (DAAD RISE) to use suberin and suberin isotopes to determine relative contribution and turnover of above- and below-ground biomass at the University of Bonn. 

“My time at the University of Bonn increased my scientific communication skills with non-native English speakers and confidence in conducting research in an international setting,” Sheppard said. “I gained a better understanding of the agricultural processes upstream of the contamination I study today. This systems-level thinking is a crucial skill for engineers to address increasingly complex and interconnected problems.”

Over the past year, she has worked on her senior thesis research project with CCEE’s Dr. Detlef Knappe, investigating the aqueous stability of selected pesticides and their hydrolysis products. She emphasized that identification of pesticide transformation products is critical in quantifying the true impact of pesticide contamination. 

“My dual studies with agroecology have equipped me to understand the system-level challenges in protecting public health from drinking water contaminants,” Sheppard said. 

Sheppard will continue her studies at NC State as she works toward a master’s degree under the supervision of Knappe.


Leadership: Hunter Bowman 

Great leadership is all about communication — a skill Hunter Bowman has ramped up over the course of his four years at NC State. Working at the Constructed Facilities Lab, he’s assisted with various civil engineering projects and research, helping peers balance workability, design and testing and keeping track of deadlines. As a purchasing coordinator engineer at The Fresh Market, he worked closely with the director of facilities, organizing with a handful of purchasing managers and employees to develop a pipeline for cataloging equipment for more than 50 stores. 

Many CCEE students might recognize Bowman as captain of this year’s American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Student Steel Bridge team. 

“This has been an incredibly enriching experience as I’ve gotten the chance to boost my peers and kickstart the American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter as many clubs reset after the pandemic,” Bowman said.

As captain, he headed weekly meetings to discuss design and fabrication and to coordinate the tasks needed to compete. He worked heavily in the labs in Fitts-Woolard, guiding his team to create and understand the purpose of each component of the bridge, which won first place in the competition’s aesthetic category.

Bowman said each of these opportunities has shaped the way he communicates with others, especially his peers.

“I’ve always stood by and upheld that the best leaders are made from the best followers, the ones meshed closely in the team, the ones that lead from within the team and not from in front of it,” he said. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to bolster and support my peers, giving them a hand when they need it because I know they’ll do the same for me. This is what I’ve come to value most in the past year, because none of us are as strong as all of us.”

Bowman plans to attend grad school in the fall.


Citizenship and Service: Haley Beard

The question isn’t “What service activities has Haley Beard been a part of?” It’s “What HASN’T she been a part of?”

As part of the highly competitive Goodnight Scholars Program, Beard has participated in several service projects, including as a tutor for the Durham Boys & Girls Club. In 2020, she traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of Alternative Service Break, where she volunteered with Service for Peace and constructed 16 water catchment systems for families in the community of La Rosa. 

Beard has also served marginalized communities and children in poverty at Avenue of Life KC in Kansas City, Missouri, as part of Christian organization Cru’s Summer Mission.  She was also  a Sierra Leone Water Project Team Member for Engineers Without Borders, where she collaborated with team members to wrap up documentation from a previous project installation trip.

“Not only is service rewarding, but it is also something I genuinely enjoy,” Beard said. “Some of my favorite memories have involved serving in different capacities. Being involved with Engineers Without Borders, Cru, and the Goodnight Scholars program has taught me that it is never too early to start giving back to the community, and that we can connect our passions to service.”

Seeing a tangible way that she can apply information she has learned in her engineering classes inspired Beard to consider a career in international development.  

“I am excited to continue to support communities in need as I enter into an internship with Unto, Cru’s humanitarian aid ministry, following graduation,” Beard said..


Scholarly Achievement: Kylee May

Though Kylee May has achieved outstanding academic status as a valedictorian with a 4.00 GPA, her accomplishments go far beyond the classroom. 

As a member of the NC State Varsity Band and Power Sound of the South NC State Marching Band, she explored her passion for music while skillfully balancing a rigorous academic schedule and various internships at companies such as Kimley-Horn and TA Loving Company. May was also part of the Chi Epsilon National Civil Engineering Honor Society and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has won several awards including the Simon Justus Everett Endowed Scholarship and SteelFab Scholarship. 

Her interest in research propelled her into various roles including undergraduate research assistant. After a year of assisting in the fabrication of concrete columns, she began her own research titled “The Effect of Critical Angle Variability on Maximum Displacement Discrepancies in Bridge Columns,” advised by Dr. Mervyn Kowalsky and research mentor, Ariadne Palma Parra. She presented her research at various symposiums including the Atlantic Coast Conference Meeting of the Minds in 2021.

“Since my first year at NC State, I have been devoted to a very high standard of academic success, allowing me to persevere in such a rigorous program. Additionally, as a gay woman in a highly male-dominated field, I knew that I had more weight on my shoulders to succeed. My strong work ethic and determination ensured that I thrived in engineering.”

Her love for learning continues to shine as she pursues a Master of Civil Engineering with a focus in structures through the Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program. 

“Throughout my four years at NC State, I have had many fulfilling and unforgettable experiences,” May said. “It has been through the invaluable connections with my peers and professors that I have become the engineer and person I am today.”