Kalvin Cho: COE’s Worthy Ambassador

Kalvin Cho - Newport Pell medium
Kalvin Cho stands on top of Newport’s Pell Bridge. Photo courtesy of RITBA.

By Neil Nachbar

Kalvin Cho is a very intelligent and talented student in the University of Rhode Island’s civil engineering program. He excels in the quantifiable “hard skills” that are necessary in the engineering profession, but his “soft skills” are equally impressive.

Expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and Chinese, through URI’s International Engineering Program (IEP), Cho’s well-rounded skill set has led to some unique and rewarding opportunities.

This past spring, the Bellingham, MA resident was selected by Assistant Dean Jared Abdirkin to represent the engineering students at the historic groundbreaking ceremony for the $125 million URI engineering complex, to be completed in 2019.

“Kalvin is an engaging and committed student, evidenced by his academic success and involvement on campus,” said Abdirkin. “Excelling in the classroom, getting involved in the College of Engineering student community, engaging in an internship, and pursuing the Chinese IEP are examples of the multifaceted, driven student that succeeds in engineering, both in degree pursuit and in professional life beyond URI. Kalvin is a leader and a role model for our student community and for the University in general.”

Prior to the ceremonial shovels digging into the dirt, Cho and a few dignitaries had an opportunity to address the audience gathered for the special occasion.

“I was honored that they believed in me and trusted me to deliver a speech at such an important event,” said Cho. “I wanted the audience to know how appreciative I am, and how appreciative my fellow engineering students are, of everyone who has supported the new engineering complex. Because of their generosity, we will be able to work harder and achieve greater accomplishments. Our futures are brighter because of their support.”

Two of the guests in the audience that day were proud supporters of Cho, his mother and sister. His father wasn’t able to make it due to work.

“It meant the world to me for my mother and my sister to be present at the ceremony, and I know my dad was very disappointed that he couldn’t attend,” stated Cho. “My mother is my biggest supporter and she is always proud of everything I do, big or small. My older sister has always been a role model to me, so to have her present really meant a lot. My family is the reason why I try my best at everything I do and why I strive to achieve great accomplishments. There is no better feeling than making my family proud.”

Growing up in a family with a Taiwanese background, Cho spoke Mandarin Chinese throughout his childhood. He watched cartoons in Chinese before he ever watched the traditional American cartoons. He also visited family in Taiwan many times throughout his childhood.

However, as Cho explained in his speech, while he grew up with an appreciation for the complexity of the language, he never had the chance to learn how to read or write in Chinese.

“When I heard that URI offered a program in which I could get an engineering degree along with a Chinese degree, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my college career,” recalled Cho. “College is about stepping outside your comfort zone and deciding to double major was definitely out of my comfort zone. I have the opportunity to earn two bachelor’s degrees in five years, to study abroad at Zhe Jiang University in China, and to have an internship in the second semester during my year abroad. These opportunities are not easy to come by. So to those who are interested in learning a foreign language or stepping out of their comfort zone, the IEP will not let you down.”

Cho’s pursuit of the knowledge and skills needed to become a successful engineer didn’t take any time off during this past summer. Under the tutelage of principal engineer Joe Levesque, Cho worked as a full-time engineering intern for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) in Jamestown, RI.

“This internship entailed a lot of work with AutoCAD, observation of present rehabilitation of the Newport Pell Bridge, and organization of past blueprints of Rhode Island’s four largest bridges,” said Cho. I learned the basics of AutoCAD through CVE 205, a course that I took the first semester of my sophomore year. During my internship, I was able to utilize the skills I learned in the course and develop more skills through the projects I was assigned.”

According to Levesque, Cho was also expected to prepare daily and weekly status reports, prepare design documents and grant applications, review inspection reports, and collect traffic data.

Cho’s proficiency and work ethic weren’t the only qualities that impressed Levesque.

“Kalvin is the type of young man that any supervisor would be honored to have as their protégé,” stated the RITBA engineer. “Kalvin is self-driven, well spoken and is very respectful to his colleagues in the workplace. He’s the type of person who greets you and leaves you with a firm handshake and looks you in the eye when speaking to you. I have no doubt that Kalvin will have success with all his future endeavors.”

One of Cho’s current endeavors is serving as a College of Engineering (COE) ambassador, a role he was offered by Abdirkin and Tammy Leso, the College of Engineering’s career and internship and ELLC (Engineering Living & Learning Community) coordinator.

“I originally applied to be an ELLC RAM (Resident Academic Mentor), however, I was not offered the position because I will be going abroad to China in my fourth year,” said Cho. “When I sent a follow-up email to Dean Abdirkin and Tammy to thank them for their consideration, their reply was completely unexpected. They offered me another job opportunity as the COE ambassador. It was the prime example of the saying, ‘when one door closes, another door opens.’”

As the COE ambassador, Cho is responsible for promoting and educating COE students about the resources available to help prepare them for internships and jobs.

“We want to let the students know that there are so many great resources like the career fairs, workshops, and even Tammy herself, that are available for the students,” explained Cho. “There are many students interested in applying for internships, but they just don’t know where to start. Hopefully my presentations, some of which will be in the residence halls and classes, will be that nudge for students who are standing idle in looking or applying for internships.”

When it comes to inspiring fellow URI students to seek and take advantage of academic and career opportunities, the College of Engineering couldn’t ask for a more fitting and deserving ambassador than Cho.