Paying it Forward: Jim Underwood Mentors Engineering Students

Mark Derowitsch, Communications

September 17, 2021

When Jim Underwood studied Architectural Engineering (AE) at the University of Nebraska, he valued the time spent with professional consultants who showed young students the ins and outs of the profession. 

Thirteen years later and five years into his full-time career at Olsson, Jim is returning the favor – paying it forward. Throughout any given semester, Jim donates his time to The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction Design at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s campus, mentoring either first-year students or helping graduate school students hone their final projects.

It’s a role Jim is all too happy to have.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Nebraska, and while I was there, I saw immense value in interacting with and learning from people who had actually done the job that I was going to school to learn,” Jim said. “Sometimes, some of that can get lost if you’re just learning from people who stayed with academia for their entire careers and are teaching you the theory behind what we do as professionals. Working with consultants helped clarify how what I was learning was going to apply professionally. I want to provide that same value to others that I got from the university.”

An important part of Jim’s job as senior engineer for Olsson’s MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) team is helping the next generation of engineers. His involvement at the university is extensive. Jim is active in two architectural engineering classes, AE Introduction to Architectural Engineering and AE Team Design. The former includes a mentoring program for incoming first-year students that allows students to meet professional engineers and learn more about the hands-on aspect of the profession. The latter is a class for graduate students where professionals are brought in to evaluate and help a team work through the design of its final project.

For good measure, Jim spends time in the summer meeting with student interns from the university as a part of their AE summer internship class. Discussions with these students cover a range of industry topics such as time management, business planning, marketing, professional licensure, and more.

“I really enjoy working with the students,” Jim said. “The university continues to reach out and it’s not a big lift.”

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