Graduate of York College of Pennsylvania’s First Civil Engineering Class Succeeding in Industry
Paul J. Pope III ’20 credits the College and co-op experiences for starting his career off on the right foot.
Paul J. Pope III ’20 knew he wanted to be some sort of engineer. When he entered York College of Pennsylvania with an undeclared major, he was leaning toward Electrical Engineering or Engineering Management. That’s when Professor of Engineering, Dr. Scott Hamilton, introduced him to the new Civil Engineering program at the College.
“I like the idea of building a community. I like the idea of giving back to it,” Pope says. “Plus, it's one of those things where the work that we do is something you can drive by and see what you've done, what you've helped with.”
It's the culmination of a lifelong passion, he says. “I always enjoyed building things. It started with Lego bricks when I was a kid. Now, I'm building bridges.”
‘‘Not just a number’’
Pope, of Manchester, Maryland, earned his degree at York College in 2020 and was quickly hired as a project engineer by local firm C.S. Davidson Inc., where he'd completed two co-ops during college.
But, he says, it was happenstance that brought him to York.
“I bought a truck from one of the people my dad works with,” he says. “His son went to York College, and the truck had a decal on the back—the Spartan logo. So, when it came to look into colleges, York just lit up for me, and I decided to go there.”
He stayed, he says, because the College impressed him. “It's absolutely friendly,” he says. “Small classes. The professors are so personable. You're not just a number.”
No doubts about new major
Pope, now 24, graduated with York College's first Civil Engineering class. Pope didn't hesitate to enroll in the new major.
“I had very little doubt,” he says now. “The head of the program, Dr. Hamilton, is renowned in the field of civil engineering. I had absolutely no doubts the program was going to be nothing short of excellent.”
He appreciated the program's emphasis on out-of-class experiences, including site visits and yearly co-ops, which are hands-on employment opportunities that let students familiarize themselves with the field.
“Getting an idea what you're going to do once you're out of school is priceless,” Pope says. “I have friends who got out of college and found out they didn't like the careers they'd been studying.This gave me a taste of what my future would be like.”
Landing full-time work
As a sophomore, Pope worked with Development Design Consultants Inc. of Westminster, Maryland. For his junior and senior years, his co-op experience was with C.S. Davidson, a civil and structural engineering firm in York.
“I went in for an interview,” Pope says. “They offered me a co-op, and I immediately took it. Then they asked me to come back for my second co-op.
“On my last day, they asked me to stay full-time. I was beyond excited. At the exit interview, they asked where I saw myself being in five years, and I said working there. They took that to heart and created a position for me.”
It was a major step forward for York College, Pope says, because C.S. Davidson was “a little hesitant” about the new program, but Pope and a classmate dispelled their concerns.
Putting knowledge to good use
Pope reviews projects that other firms submit to municipalities represented by C.S. Davidson. He works on design projects, such as culverts and other structures that may impact streams and waterways, as well as utility installations and replacements such as water and gas. He also works on the land development team, helping clients to realize their visions.
Pope still lives in Manchester, commuting some days to his office in York and working remotely—sometimes at home, sometimes in the field—as needed. He'll move to York eventually, he says, and he's making connections in the region.
C.S. Davidson sponsors him in Leadership York, he notes, which grooms participants for leadership roles in the community.
“Both the College and C.S. Davidson have been very good to me,” he says. “They've built me into more than I thought I could be. They pushed me further.”
He also has talked to Civil Engineering classes at York College about what he’s done and how York College prepared him for this career.
“It's another window for the kids to see what they want to do in the future,” he says. “I can say, ‘I did this.’ I made it through college with an engineering degree. I can tell them that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Stay in, it'll be worth it when it's over.”