Iowa State civil engineering alum stresses importance of licensed engineering

For Mike Conzett, promoting engineering licensure is an incredibly important means of guaranteeing a standard of professionalism in the field.

Conzett, an Iowa State University civil engineering alumnus, has been a licensed professional engineer since 1982. “It’s taking your work and standing behind it,” he says.

Mike Conzett
Mike Conzett

And he’s made it a personal and professional goal to encourage others to become licensed as well.

Recently commissioned as the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES) Central Zone vice president, Conzett serves on the NCEES board of director’s and is the zone’s administrative officer through 2014.

He hopes it will ultimately lead to a position as president-elect and president of NCEES.

“As I wrap up my career, that would be a nice opportunity, to serve NCEES and promote licensure at the national level,” he says.

Additionally, he is in his eleventh year serving on the Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects and has served as a former board chair. He has also served on a number of NCEES committees, including chairing the Engineering Education Task Force.

“I’ve been involved to this degree because now more than ever, it’s important to be able to demonstrate the highest degree of professionalism you can,” explains Conzett. “In civil engineering, about 80 percent of engineers become licensed. Because so many civil engineers work on projects that directly affect the public’s welfare and safety, it’s critical to have this measurable standard you can point to. I think that should be true of all engineering disciplines.”

Conzett completed a bachelor’s degree at Iowa State in 1976 in civil engineering, a discipline he was drawn to by way of his interest in the environment.

“When I graduated from high school in 1972, there was a huge environmental awareness nationally, and a lot of federal money being pumped into new programs. The EPA was just starting,” says Conzett. “I loved math and science, and I loved and was concerned about the environment. I looked around at all the social unrest, the tree-huggers, and thought that I could choose to be a part of that, or part of a real solution. It was very clear to me that civil engineering was my path.”

Through the urging of his academic mentor Bob Baumann (distinguished professor emeritus of CCEE), he completed his master’s program in civil engineering at Iowa State in 1978.

His graduate research work was funded in part by Procter & Gamble, and this led to a first job with the personal care and cleaning products giant in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He was with P&G for six years, and then moved to HDR in Omaha in 1984 to remain close to the environmental engineering work he was passionate about. Conzett is now a vice president and senior project manager for the engineering consulting firm, where he has spent a majority of his career studying soil and ground water contamination and designing remediation systems.

With such a positive experience in graduate school and a fulfilling career, Conzett says he wanted to help others reach their potential as well. That’s why he has donated his P&G stock to Iowa State.

“It’s my legacy for the research funding I received in graduate school,” he adds. “With all the capital gains and growth that stock has seen, it’s a way to give back to Iowa State in a way I couldn’t have done otherwise, and I think that’s pretty cool, for it to return full circle like that.”

A Dubuque, Iowa, native, Conzett has remained loyal to Iowa State both as an alumnus and as a parent of three Iowa State graduates (Chris Conzett ’07, Andrew Conzett ’10, and Margaret Conzett ’12.)

“My wife Valerie ‘adopted’ Iowa State, and we sent our kids there. We love being on campus when we can,” he says.

Conzett also gives back to Iowa State through his service as a member of the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Council, to which he has belonged for five years.

Through his work on the council, he communicates to academia how the engineering field is changing and how Iowa State students can be better prepared.

“The profession has become more and more influenced by public opinion and awareness, and also by public demand. It’s more important than ever before that engineers be educated about the political process, law, and public policy,” Conzett explains. “It’s also important for engineers to have communication, risk analysis, and business skills. We’ve gone from being a profession of analytical worker bees to being people who must be leaders in the public square.”

4 thoughts on “Iowa State civil engineering alum stresses importance of licensed engineering

  1. Mike is the example that is set by many ISU alumni. He is true to his profession and is committed to the unversity that helped him set his career path. Mike was influential in my personal choice to explore and complete a BSCE at ISU and ultimately, obtain my Illinois State Licensure status. I respect Mike’s commitment and love him for all his choices because……he is also my brother.
    Ellen Conzett Kijowski, PE
    BSCE, 1981
    Chicago District Manager, Technical Operations, Federal Aviaton Administration

  2. I have know Mike Conzett since 1984 when he came to Nebraska. He brought an great technical engineering background as well as an excellent understanding of Industrial systems to his career at HDR. I have had the opportunity to serve beside Mike on the Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects and have seen Mike in action serving the public through his actions on the Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects. He will bring a fresh and strong leadership and advocacy to the National Council of Examiners of Engineers and Surveyors as a Vice President of the Central Zone and ultimately as President of NCEES.

    Our Professional Engineers in Nebraska and Iowa as well as the Central Region of NCEES can be proud of Mike’s representation.

    Roger M. Helgoth, P.E. ( Nebraska and Iowa)
    President of Kirkham Michael and Associates.
    Offices in Des Moines, IA; Omaha, Lincoln and York, NE ; Ellsworth, KS

  3. I’ve known Mike since 1972 when we were freshmen in CE at ISU and later as roommates in grad school.
    Congratulations and all the best my old friend in this new role.It goes without saying that the best person was chosen to take on this challenge.

    Tim Laros, Mgr Strategic Initiatives , Group Research , FL Smidth Minerals Salt Lake City

  4. I am an ISU graduate, BS Chem. E. 1964. Chemical engineering projects don’t always require a PE license for supervision of the projects but a few do. I believe that it should be the responsibility of every company that employs engineers to manage projects that the management be under the supervision and authority of a licensed PE. Legislators should provide the required legislation to protect customers of services and equipment from performance by unqualified individuals. Insurance companies should minimize their risk and expenses by recognizing the high cost of failures due to performance by non-qualified individuals. In my many years of practicing engineering I have observed failures that are expensive, and even life threatening because of work being done by people who are regarded as engineers by their employers but who lack the education and skills need for a qualification as a licensed PE. My message to fellow ISU engineering graduates is get licensed! Every ISU graduate should find it easy to pass the required examinations and qualify as licensed PE’s.

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