IEA gift to provide scholarships, internship opportunities for UAB engineering students

hardhat2021Diversity has long been a core strength of UAB, yet increasing the number of underrepresented groups in engineering fields has long been a challenge. This spring, a high-profile partner made a big commitment to help the School of Engineering in that effort.

Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives, Inc. (IEA), an Indiana-based company with offices across the U.S., recently donated $20,000 to fund scholarships in the School of Engineering. The money will be distributed to five $4,000 scholarships to students from underrepresented populations. The partnership with UAB is part of a larger strategy to create pipelines of engineers that will, in the long-term, help to diversify the workforce in the various fields employed by IEA.

“This generous gift was an unexpected surprise,” said UAB School of Engineering Dean Jeff Holmes. “Of course, we are thrilled with the opportunities this funding will provide for our students, but I was even more pleased when I realized the priorities of IEA are so perfectly aligned with our own institutional goals. I hope this partnership will benefit both parties for years to come.”

On its company web site, IEA describes itself as “an infrastructure construction company with specialized energy and heavy civil expertise.” Focus areas include renewable energy, power delivery, heavy civil, industrial/power, rail, and environmental services.

Although based in Indiana, the company acquired seven other companies in 2018—including Birmingham construction firm SAIIA and others located in Las Vegas, Utah, California, Colorado, and Illinois. With that kind of national footprint, the company began to look at ways to accomplish its mission while changing engineering and construction professions for the better. It is doing that by expanding scholarship and internship programs it had established in Indiana to other states where IEA had a presence.

“It is very difficult to attract underrepresented groups into engineering fields, and cost of education is often one of the main obstacles,” said Morayma Da Silva, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for IEA. “We had been targeting high schools and intensifying efforts with STEM groups, but we also wanted to take advantage of the work that universities such as UAB are already doing. We looked specifically to identify schools that already include a diverse student population and who could work with us to increase participation of underrepresented groups.”

In addition to providing scholarship money, Da Silva said IEA also will offer a variety of internship opportunities with IEA companies. “We will have some positions in Birmingham, but we also will work with students who may want to travel to job sites or if they want to relocate and work with any of our sister companies,” she said. “There are wind farms and solar farms around Alabama. There are many opportunities available for engineering students

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