Civil Engineering Student Finds Passion for Bridges through Co-op

By:    Brandon Pytel
Date: June 20, 2018

Recent civil engineering graduate C.J. Bowman found his passion for bridge construction through his diverse array of co-op experiences.

Bowman with hardhat and vest stands in front of a crane on-site.

Civil engineering student C.J. Bowman on co-op with the American Bridge Company in New York.

Cooperative education (co-op) introduces undergraduate students to the professional field before they graduate. Co-op lets students finance their education, develop professionally and travel the world. It also helps students find their passion.

When Charles (C.J.) Bowman (civil engineering ’18) entered the University of Cincinnati (UC) as a freshman, he thought he would one day work for a structural engineering firm. His first two co-op rotations were with Kokosing Industrial, working for a semester in Toledo on a wastewater detention project and a semester in Columbus on a drinking water treatment project. In these projects, Bowman had responsibilities that included subcontractor management, environmental plan management, labor and equipment tracking and document control.

Then he spent his third co-op rotation with the American Bridge Company in New York and everything changed. “I got into bridge and marine construction and fell in love with it,” said Bowman.

In New York, Bowman worked as a field engineer intern on the Tappan Zee Bridge (now the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge), a bridge that crosses the Hudson River north of New York City. Bowman called the project “bigger than life,” with a price tag of over $3 billion. Bowman helped put together steel erection plans, performed field measurements and inspections and coordinated with field workers to execute the plans.

After that rotation, Bowman spent another semester with American Bridge Company, this time in Pittsburgh. He spent his last co-op rotation with British Marine Technology in Singapore. Both of these rotations focused on the design aspect of building, which, though Bowman enjoyed his experience and the traveling, confirmed his passion for construction and general contracting.

“I love to see my work implemented immediately and the impact I am having on a project,” said Bowman. “After doing my last two co-ops in design, I realized I enjoyed construction significantly more.”

Co-op not only allowed Bowman to find his passion in bridge construction; it helped secure him a full-time position after graduation. After spending two co-op rotations with the American Bridge Company, Bowman accepted a job with the company in Kansas City, Missouri. He will start in July, working on the Lewis and Clark Viaduct Bridge, a $60 million bridge demolition and replacement project.

Bowman looks forward to moving to Kansas City and building his career around bridges, a passion that the University of Cincinnati helped him realize.