The Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University is highlighting senior, McKenna O’Donnell for Fall 2021. A Fort Collins native, O’Donnell, grew up playing hockey, camping, hiking, crafting, and hanging out with friends. She learned early on that Colorado is “filled with gems!” She continues to enjoy playing hockey, and also embroidering, biking, and baking.
With her father as a CSU alumnus, O’Donnell started her own CSU career after attending Front Range Community College. At that time, she was wavering between pursuing interior design or architecture. Simultaneously, she met multiple women who were working in construction, who took her “under their wings” by introducing O’Donnell to jobsite tours and educating about day-to-day construction operations. After spending some time with them and meeting the CM advisor, O’Donnell was convinced to join the CM major after realizing that construction both inspired and fascinated her.
Being a member of the Women in Construction club was one of the highlights of O’Donnell’s CSU career. She met numerous women whom, she believes, have prioritized encouraging young women within construction, and led her to realize how passionate she is for supporting others, as well.
Preparation through hard work and internship experience
For one of her internships, O’Donnell worked with Swinerton Builders as a laborer working on a UCHealth office building. She shoveled dirt, tied rebar, and pushed a broom – “a lot!” She gained great appreciation for the construction process and for the field workers.
Her second internship was in northern California with Blach Construction, as a project engineer. She worked on an Olympic-sized competition pool. O’Donnell’s most recent internship was with Dohn Construction working as an estimator on numerous projects.
Asked if she felt CSU’s CM Program had prepared her for her future career, O’Donnell said, “Absolutely. I have made countless connections with industry members, faculty, and fellow students in CM. I’ve been blessed to sign with a company – yay for having a job! I believe my internships, extracurricular activities, and courses have all worked together to give me a great foundation.”
O’Donnell noted that as a student she related to feeling discouraged, tired, frustrated, and even defeated at times. “The only thing I’ve continued to do right is to keep going,” said O’Donnell. “I took a lot of baby steps forward and leaned into my support system. On the flip side, I have felt deep gratification, excitement, and increased self-esteem. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to grow as a person, and as a student!”
Plans following graduation
After graduation, O’Donnell plans to travel for six months. Upon her return, she will be moving to Denver to begin her employment at Okland Construction as a project engineer. She’s looking forward to growing her career after some time of exploration.
Asked what advice she might offer for current or new students in the program, O’Donnell said, “Learn how to study, it’s a skill worth having. Create a community, join the clubs, rec sports – meet your people! Don’t let school become your whole life; you are a student with many needs. Be sure to meet those needs so you can be a successful human.”
The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.