March 27, 2013
By: Colleen Costello
Esther Kolkman, a senior on the SMU rowing team, has had a unique experience at SMU. Not only did she gain her U.S. citizenship this past year, having lived part of her life in New Zealand, but she also manages to succeed in one of the most difficult majors on campus, civil engineering. I spoke with Esther to find out how she has managed to do this and what she has learned in the process.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an engineer?
A: For the most part, I was always good at math and science. I also enjoyed hearing about things that my dad was doing at work; he is also an engineer.
Q: Has it been difficult to balance school and rowing? What has been the hardest part?
A: It has. It took a while to find the right balance, and it's still tough every now and then when I have a hard week at school or in rowing, but for the most part I've gotten used to it. The hardest part is learning how to balance everything and still have time for other commitments. I have had a hard time learning to manage my time so that I can continue to be involved in other school activities, like Engineers Without Borders.
Q: What has being a student-athlete taught you?
A: Being a student athlete has shown me how to manage my time. If I have a spare half hour, I use it to work on homework or my senior design project. It has also taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. There have been times when I didn't think I'd be able to get through the week with all of our rowing commitments and all of the school work I had, but I always seem to push through and find a way.
Q: What is your senior seminar about?
A: My senior design project is an environmental engineering project. It is an analysis of the current City of Gainesville Waste Water Treatment Plant. In addition to being a current analysis, we had to decide what to keep, replace, or remove from the plant in order to add a biological nutrient removal process for phosphorus and nitrogen. In 2025 the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be adding new limits on what can be left in the water, so this is a real-life design project that I have been working on. It is also part of the Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) student design competition, so I will be travelling to Galveston, Texas, in April with the three others members of my design team to compete against other universities.
Q: What are your plans after graduating this spring?
A: After graduating this spring, I will be staying at SMU to complete my Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering. SMU has a great 4+1 program in the engineering school where you can complete your Masters in only one extra year. After that, I hope to get a job in water or alternative energy and eventually work internationally.