Spring 2017

What's in your backpack?

Sarah Schulz in the future entry of the Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium

“A hard hat,” says Sarah Schulz, a University of Minnesota senior studying construction management in the College of Continuing Education. As an intern and now a part-time project engineer with Parsons Electric in Minneapolis, she has worked on two U of M projects—the new Bell Museum and the renovation of the Tate Laboratory of Physics. “I really enjoy being on site,” she says. “That’s where the project comes to life.”

Schulz, who grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, developed an appreciation for cityscapes from her father, a landscape architect. While driving around, he would point out projects he’d worked on—highways, retaining walls, bridges. “But I really like commercial buildings,” she says. Among her favorites: U.S. Bank Stadium and The Carlyle in Minneapolis.

As a woman pursuing a career in commercial construction, Schulz is in the minority. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women occupy about 9 percent of construction jobs—a reality Schulz notices in the composition of her classes. “You have to wonder if you’ll be respected or if people will take you seriously,” she says, adding that she joined Toastmasters to network and hone her speaking skills. 

Schulz, who received a scholarship from PCL Construction aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in the industry, says she seeks out women in her field to get their perspectives. (Their advice: Be assertive and stand your ground.) 

“More women are getting into construction,” she says. “We bring a different set of skills, and people are realizing what assets we can be.”