Student organizations key to the Illinois CEE experience

Published on: 
26 Mar 2014
Nishant Makhijani

Originally published in the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Magazine, Winter 2014

Recently, I shared the stage with David Gottfried, the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and Stephen Ritz, Founder of Green Bronx Machine, at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia. I had been asked to participate because of my long involvement with the USGBC student chapter here at Illinois. During the panel discussion, David asked me this question: “Nishant, what advice do you give to other students involved in the sustainability movement?” My reply was, “Get involved in the community and take advantage of the resources available to you.” I believe it was my educational experience at the University of Illinois, and particularly my experience with student organizations, that has given me that perspective. I got involved with the U.S. Green Building Council Students four years ago as a freshman. USGBC Students is a student organization that aims to promote the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) building standard and provide opportunities for students to learn more about sustainable infrastructure through general meetings and site tours. My values resonated very closely with the organization’s mission thus I started to give my time and energy to the organization, eventually becoming president in 2012.

As president, my primary goal was to increase our membership base by offering a variety of events. This goal helped me create relationships with the strong base of CEE student groups such as ASCE, SEA, CMAA, as we all shared a common purpose - educating and giving relevant life experiences to the CEE at Illinois students. This passion to create a positive change for the students has helped me and other student leaders in CEE grow as individuals and leaders. We hold ourselves to high standards and are driven by passion, hard work and the determination to succeed.  These organizations give us opportunities to cultivate our networking skills and develop professional etiquette.

As a senior, I feel it is important to recognize and acknowledge the support I have received in the last four years, especially from the CEE department. In addition to giving us an excellent education, our department faculty and staff are always looking out for us and offering opportunities for growth. The support from the department to attend conferences, lectures and networking events gives us a unique opportunity to seek out alumni and industry professionals to advance our organizations. Furthermore, they also give us an opportunity to seek mentors from the industry and create long-lasting relationships with them. 

A member of USGBC, I am a part of a community of highly motivated young professionals--students and emerging professionals--who inspire me through opportunities for growth in their workplaces and communities. This community is unique to USGBC, and I consider myself lucky to be part of this social change. Today, with support of the CEE Department, USGBC Students hold numerous events through the Green Apple Initiative, to educate and inspire children and adults to view sustainability and sustainable design with a new eye. In addition, during my time in CEE at Illinois, I have also had the opportunity to give back and serve as a mentor for freshmen through the Engineering Learning Assistant position and the CEE Student Committee Mentoring Program. My other student organization involvements have included Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity and Student Sustainability Committee. These involvements have enhanced my education in numerous ways and helped me make the most of my Illinois experience in ways I will never forget.

Partly because of my involvement in the department through student organizations, a department staff member nominated me for a position on the 2013 Homecoming Court. My friend Marika Nell, also a CEE senior, and I were honored to represent the student body in another unforgettable Illinois experience.

Nishant is a senior seeking a career in Construction Management and Sustainability and can be reached at [email protected] and LinkedIn.