PART 1: New advisory board members talk entrepreneurship, leadership and getting the most out of your degree

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The School of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomed four new members to its External Advisory Board this fall.

Over the coming days, we’re going to introduce you to these people, all graduates of the program, who are volunteering time to advise our School’s chair on everything from curriculum and fundraising to, ahem, communications and recruiting.

These guys are interesting. And they have advice, insight and stories to share.

Today, a brief introduction. Thursday, building companies versus building stuff — how several of these folks turned their education and experiences into leadership or entrepreneurial ventures. On December 8, to CEE or not to CEE (or, what you can do with a CEE degree other than engineering). And finally, December 10, one piece of advice, the one thing they thought would be most helpful to a current student.

Bill Higginbotham
Bachelor's degree, 1976

“This is company No. 8. Company No. 1 was when I was still a senior [at Georgia Tech]. It was the end of the Arab oil embargo. My best friend at the time was a plumber, so we started a company to do solar hot water installations. That paid for my last year of school.”
Read more in part two of our series on December 4.

Career: President and CEO of ET Environmental in Atlanta. Registered professional engineer and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional. Previously founded and served as president of Chattahoochee Geotechnical Consultants and later as vice president of EMCON Associates after merging his company with that firm.


Silvio Lopez
Bachelor’s degree, 1979; Master’s in Construction Management, 1981

"I’ve always said an engineer can do anything he likes. You know, what we are taught is to look at a situation, assess what the problem is, and find a solution. We have a structured mind, we have an analytical mind. And all businesses are the same thing.”
Read more in part two of our series on December 4.

Career: Senior Vice President of Banco Popular in Puerto Rico, responsible for the bank’s mortgage operation. He previously led the company’s corporate banking division and its construction department. Lopez also has a Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine University.


Damian Taylor
Bachelor’s degree, 2001

"I like real estate because you’re a place-making person. Civil engineers play a key role in that built environment. You see in developing countries, when we develop wastewater systems or build bridges or build roads, you’re making the place better for people to live.”
Read more in part three of our series on December 8.

Career: Director at CBRE Capital Advisors in New York, the real estate investment-banking unit of CBRE. He previously worked at UBS Investment Bank in the real estate, lodging and leisure group, and he worked in real estate development before entering corporate finance and banking. Taylor also has a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University.


Michael R. Van Epp
Bachelor’s degree, 2003

“Having been at Georgia Tech and understanding civil engineering and grading, it enables me to go through a land development project, manage the consultants, understand what they’re going through, [understand] their time constraints, and seek out better solutions when it’s necessary.”
Read more in part three of our series on December 8.

Career: Senior Vice President at Dickinson Financial Corp., a bank-holding company based in Kansas City, Missouri. He manages the company’s national portfolio of more than $325 million in foreclosed real estate assets. Van Epp previously ran land acquisitions for MDC Holdings / Richmond American Homes in Las Vegas and oversaw the design and entitlements of a 7,100-acre master planned community for Sunbelt Holdings in Scottsdale, Arizona.

UP NEXT: Using civil engineering skills to get ahead in business — or start your own.

Read more of the series:
Part 2: Building companies versus building stuff: entrepreneurship and leadership
Part 3: To CEE or not to CEE (Or: what you can do with a CEE degree other than engineering)
Part 4: One piece of advice