Graduation is already a special time to reflect on the strength and growth that comes from hard work in academics, but for CEE senior Kadee Klimowicz, training for the Air Force gave her the added foundation of discipline to see herself as an emerging leader.
“The Air Force has given me a track toward adventure and relieved my parents of paying for tuition,” she said. “But it’s also evolved into so much more as the years went on. I found strength I never knew I had and it pushed me to fail and determine who I will be as a leader when I serve.”
Klimowicz was selected for OP-EX, an operational expeditionary career track that puts her first assignment in the Space Operations, overseeing space surveillance, space lift, space warning, and satellite command and control. Her first step will be training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
While Klimowicz’s academic focus is in water resources and environmental engineering, she also has a passion for aircraft and space operations, so commissioning in the Air Force to pay for college was a great fit. For her, the ability to travel through the military is an added bonus.
Klimowicz comes from the small town of Spring City, Tennessee, and was attracted to UT and Knoxville because it would give her an experience of being in a bigger place.
During her senior year, she had the chance to travel to one of the biggest cities in the US when her senior design team went to Chicago for the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition Conference (WEFTEC), where they felt inspired amid the skyscrapers.
“Spending the day marveling at the skyscrapers with structural guru Dr. Retherford and actually going to the top of Willis Tower and standing in the glass box with the team created a sense of family that motivated us to make our senior design project the best it could be!” she said.
As someone who is interested in sustainability practices for all aspects of civil engineering, CEE was a great fit. For her senior design project, she worked with teammates to design and build a portable and potable water treatment device from wastewater effluent in use of brewing beer to increase awareness on water re-use applications.
She also sees the civil and environmental engineering discipline as giving her the ability to approach any problem with a critical mindset.
“Graduating in civil engineering taught me how to evaluate and critically think in a deliberate manner within a time constraint,” she said. “I am confident in my abilities to come onto a task and work to be competent in my role. My engineering degree has taught me ‘how to learn.’”
Klimowicz hopes to tie these passions of sustainability and space as she begins her career in the Air Force.
“As space is becoming the new war domain, space debris is exponentially increasing,” she said. “To help develop a technology that allows us to continue our growth but lessen our waste is my ultimate goal.”