$4.5 million construction projects are a big deal for any engineer. For Kaelen Small, a senior in civil and environmental engineering, overseeing a paving project at Mid-Rivers Mall in St. Louis is his job. As a summer intern for Byrne & Jones Construction, Small isn’t just grabbing coffee, or assisting an engineer. He is acting as project manager, ordering mix, calculating quantities and communicating with other engineers and the client.
“We believe that the only way to see what an intern is capable of is to give them a ‘real job,’” said Britt Taulbee, vice president at Byrne & Jones. “We give our interns the same responsibilities as a full-time employee. We want to see how they handle stress, the workload, difficult decisions, success and failure.”
Small started his internship with Byrne & Jones in May 2018. When a project manager relocated and someone was needed to oversee the Mid-Rivers Mall, Taulbee and colleagues picked Small to replace him. Small admits he was hesitant approaching the construction industry, as he didn’t know much about it. But during his short time at Byrne & Jones he has learned it’s a huge, well-oiled machine, with a lot of moving parts that have to come together seamlessly.
“Overseeing such a significant project has allowed me to learn more than I’ve ever expected,” Small said. “From the scheduling and planning ahead, I’ve definitely gained time management skills.”
“Kaelen has done an excellent job for us; he ended up with even more responsibility than we had originally planned,” Taulbee said. “Kaelen didn’t hesitate. He took on all of the additional responsibility and hasn’t looked back!”
Originally from O’Fallon, Missouri, Small came to Mizzou to become a part of a growing engineering community and to meet other curious and committed students.
“Mizzou has opened doors I had not even known existed,” Small said. “I have been exposed to very important and influential people, while also gaining useful, hands-on experience in my field.”
Small credits his success at Byrne & Jones to his time in the College of Engineering, in particular his Decision Methods class with Ahmed Abu El-Ela, assistant teaching professor of civil and environmental engineering. It was that class that made him fall in love with his major.
“Decision Methods was my favorite class, hands down,” Small said. “That course prepared me for many things I’ve seen in my internship, especially project management.”
One of the many people proud of Small’s success is Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the College of Engineering.
“Our goal isn’t just to train engineers; our goal is to prepare the next generation of engineering leaders to tackle global challenges,” Loboa said. “Our alumni have included inventors, innovators, CEOs and politicians, including nearly 500 people who currently are serving as president or CEO of a company in industry. These individuals came from an institution that allowed them to participate in ongoing research and develop the presentation and communication skills necessary to become leaders in their fields. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kaelen achieve similar success in his career.”
A recent survey shows that 90.4 percent of Mizzou graduates have found successful career outcomes. Mizzou leaders have credited experiential learning that students receive as a reason for the university’s high career outcomes.
Small will return to Mizzou to complete senior year. While he currently is unsure of his plans after graduation, he knows that Mizzou has prepared him for the next chapter.
His advice for future Tigers?
“Be open-minded about everything. Join a new club, watch a play, try a sport or just walk around and meet someone new. College is a learning experience and there is no better place to learn than Mizzou.”