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Blugold alumna engineers success in STEM

| Erin Finneman

For the past 100 years, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduates have been breaking new ground, glass ceilings and making a difference in communities around the world. Blugolds set the bar high, and perhaps that's one of the reasons Bridget (Wolfe) Osborn is making a name for herself in a field traditionally dominated by men.

Bridget, a 2008 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, is extremely humble about her work as an engineer in HR Green's St. Paul office. Over the past six years, she has worked with several teams on projects for the full-service engineering consulting firm. Her innovative work, coupled with a commitment to community, has helped Bridget gain recognition on a national level.

Each year, the American Council of Engineering Companies honors young professionals who have excelled in the field of engineering and created positive engagement in the community. Bridget was honored to accept the prestigious 2016 ACEC Young Professional of the Year award.

“These awards were given to up-and-coming engineers,” Bridget said. “All of the applicants, like myself, had to focus on great projects, impact and community involvement.”

Winning a national award in a field where women have struggled to get ahead says a lot about Bridget's ability to rise above. Men have dominated the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for decades, and Bridget credits much of her success to support at UW-Eau Claire and at HR Green.

“I was the first person from UW-Eau Claire to complete a geology dual degree in partnership with the University of Minnesota,” Bridget said. “Through the program, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology from UW-Eau Claire and a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the U of M. This program provided me with a really unique education that I feel has helped me a lot.”

Many of the engineers who work alongside Bridget hold degrees in civil engineering, so her geological skills often set her apart from the pack of talented young engineers. She credits UW-Eau Claire with helping her gain a more personal experience that led her to pursue a degree in geology.

Not only did Bridget’s professors at UW-Eau Claire leave a lasting impression on her, she left an indelible mark during her time as a Blugold. Dr. Bob Hooper, professor of geology, recalls the passion and drive he saw in Bridget as student with big dreams.

 “The best part of teaching geology at UW-Eau Claire is being able to help students envision careers that allow them to be both financially secure, and at the same time, to really enjoy their careers,” Hooper said.” It was clear in talking to Bridget a couple weeks ago that she found that perfect match.”

HR Green is excited to have Bridget on the team, and she is thrilled to be part of the award-winning firm.

“I am very lucky to work for such an awesome company,” Bridget said. “I have personally never experienced any discrimination as a woman at my company, but it does still happen in the engineering field. I have heard stories of other women’s struggles and it is difficult to break past.

"Some women have experienced being told that after having children, their career is over. My goal within this field is to prove that these things aren’t true, and to break through the stigma.”

As a water resources project engineer at HR Green, Bridget enjoys sharing her expertise and solutions with a variety of customers.

“Essentially our job is to help out smaller municipalities that do not have a large enough staff to employ engineers. Because of this, we are able to work on really cool and innovative projects.”

One of the most innovative, effective projects Bridget has worked on during her time at HR Green was a storm water reuse project.

“In one of my previous projects, our team worked to get a watershed permit for a new length of roadway,” Bridget said. “Due to the length of road that was being constructed, there had to be treatments in place for runoff to meet requirements. My team and I designed a water reuse system that dumps storm water from the roadway into ponds at a nearby golf course. This water is then used to irrigate the golf course.”

The water reuse project involved new technologies and is a good example of the outstanding work Bridget has accomplished as a young engineer. Strong, independent women like Bridget are paving new career paths for young female engineers. These rising stars are huge assets not only to the companies they serve, but also to the communities that benefit from their expertise.

In addition to her work at HR Green, Bridget volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, her local watershed district, Great River Greening, and she also takes time to speak to young students about engineering.

Bridget does not plan to slow down anytime soon. Earlier this year, she accepted another award from ACEC, the 2016 New Faces of Engineering Award, which is presented through DiscoverE. DiscoverE focuses on engaging students in learning opportunities and supports the work of volunteers like Bridget within the technology and engineering fields.

For young girls wondering about opportunities in STEM fields, Bridget is a shining example of what is possible when you chart your own path to success and refuse to be held back by stereotypes and limitations.

“Advancing further into my career, I hope to get more involved with project management and business development,” Bridget said. “I just love working on projects with big impacts, and I can’t wait to do more of that in the future.”

Photo caption: Bridget Osborn (center) accepts the 2016 ACEC Young Professional of the Year award.