Karen Fussell ’88 worked hard when she attended NC State to make sure the time she spent studying civil engineering was worth her while. It’s been almost 24 years since she graduated, and her hard work has paid off.
Fussell recently became the first female to hold the position of division engineer at the N.C. Department of Transportation. As a division engineer, Fussell is in charge of overseeing everything that goes on in Highway Division 3, which covers six counties spanning from Brunswick to Sampson.
Fussell took time out of her meeting-packed schedule this week to talk with us about her time at NC State, and the new challenges she faces as a division engineer.
What are some challenges you might face being the first woman division engineer in state history? I don’t see any gender challenges. I may be naive but I just don’t see challenges as far as it goes to gender. This business is not about gender; it’s about getting the work done, completing projects and improving transportation.
What are some challenges you face in this position? Just getting exposed to all the facets of the job. The challenge is just scheduling and meeting budgets. We are limited on both.
When you joined the NC DOT did you know you wanted to be a division engineer? Yes. This is the dream job for a DOT engineer. This is a dream job for people who want to stay in the field.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a division engineer? The people, and seeing project from start to finish.
Did you have specific goal in mind when you were in school at NC State? I was just good in math, and the choices were limited to teaching math or engineering. Engineering just sounded fun, and I’ve enjoyed it.
How did your time at NC State help you prepare for this new position? Without my education I would have never gotten into the field. I went straight from State to the NC DOT, and I’ve been here coming up on 23 years.
Any advice for graduating engineers? Work hard. Know your subject. And be able to present that to any audience. As an engineer we tend to speak in engineer language. And that is not always are audience. It is important to be able to relay information to any audience.
— Caitlin Barrett