Steve Mitnick is Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly and author of the book “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm.”
PUF’s Steve Mitnick: What were you doing at the AABE conference?
Laron Evans: One of the members in the Kansas City chapter had been nudging me for quite a while to become a member of AABE, and I did so last year.
However, that was not my first encounter with AABE. When I was graduating from high school, my math teacher was familiar with AABE’s Kansas City chapter and recommended me for the William Grant Pinkard Scholarship. I received that scholarship, which supported me through two years of college. I’ve been familiar with AABE for about fifteen years.
I was asked last month to be the Burns & McDonnell diversity manager for Exelon projects. That was another reason I was at the conference, to network with members from Exelon but also with representatives of diverse businesses that were present at the conference.
PUF’s Steve Mitnick: How did you get into engineering from high school, to college, and then into a career?
Laron Evans: I can tell you for sure that when I was in high school I had no firm idea of what an engineer was. However, my father recognized my forte in math and science throughout my school years. He also noticed my interest in putting things together, working with electric circuits and building hydraulic model cars when I was younger. So, it was my father who encouraged me during my junior year in high school to consider engineering.
I was going to a performing arts high school, where I was majoring in instrumental music. A lot of people ask me how I came from a performing arts high school and ended up in engineering. My major in high school was instrumental music, but of course I always had an interest in and a talent for math and science. After my father encouraged me to go into engineering, I researched it and decided that was what I wanted to do, to go to a school for engineering.
There was a whole list of schools I applied to: University of Missouri-Rolla, KU, K-State, Colorado School of Mines, and then Iowa State. Iowa State was the first to accept my application. They were the first to reach out to me. They were also the first to offer scholarship money. That, coupled with an invitation from Monsanto to apply for the Marty E. Blaylock scholarship, which would provide full in-state tuition to minorities attending certain Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana universities for engineering studies.
When I received the scholarship from Monsanto, it solidified my decision to attend Iowa State University. I was there for five years. I received my electrical engineering degree. At the end of my years at Iowa State I was seeking a job, wanting to come back to Kansas City, and Burns & McDonnell was one of the first on my list. Through the grace of God, I was hired by Burns & McDonnell.