March 4, 2013

'New face' of engineering works on Cornell Tech

Abena Sackey Ojetayo
Lindsay France/University Photography
Abena Sackey Ojetayo was named a "New Face of Civil Engineering" by the American Society of Civil Engineers this year. She works with her supervisor, Steve Beyers, on Cornell NYC Tech site development.

When the Cornell NYC Tech campus site on Roosevelt Island is dotted with buildings and students, Abena Sackey Ojetayo '07, M.Eng. '09, will be able to say she helped make it happen.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the accomplishments of Ojetayo, an engineer with Cornell Facilities Services, by naming her to its list of 2013 New Faces of Civil Engineering, which highlights promising under-30 engineers.

These engineers, the ASCE website states, "exhibit leadership, technical prowess, confidence, curiosity, integrity, sound judgment and a positive attitude."

Ojetayo was surprised and pleased when she received word of the honor, and also encouraged, because "I didn't exactly do a lot of the typical civil engineering stuff. I just pursued opportunities that I was passionate about even if engineering was not the focus."

Beginning as an undergraduate, Ojetayo blazed her own path. She graduated with an independent major in civil engineering with a concentration in sustainable development. She studied abroad in Cephalonia, Greece, working as an infrastructure planner on a community redevelopment project.

She earned her M.Eng. in engineering management through Cornell's Employee Degree Program while working as an assistant director in the Diversity Programs in Engineering office. In 2010 she left Ithaca for a job in Nigeria working on the Anam City project, where she managed a team master planning a model sustainable city.

Soon after, Ojetayo, now a newlywed, decided to return to the U.S., and eventually to Ithaca, upon her hire in early 2012.

Ojetayo works in the energy and environmental engineering section of facilities services. For Cornell Tech, she and her supervisor, Steve Beyers, serve on the project management team for site development of the tech campus, which includes site utilities and energy services, civil works and landscaping.

With a compressed schedule and aggressive sustainability goals, Ojetayo calls the work both challenging and rewarding.

Her previous work on sustainable development for small cities helped prepare her for the challenges of site-wide planning. The tech campus provides an opportunity for engineers, architects and project managers to plan an efficient living-learning environment from the ground up -- no retrofitting or rehabbing mistakes of the past.

Ojetayo also points out that the Cornell Tech project involves many stakeholders, from faculty, alumni and students, to the Roosevelt Island community and New York City at large. As one of the owner's representatives, her role is to help manage the project within the spirit, intent and mission of Cornell.

"When [Kent Fuchs] was the engineering dean when I was a student, he would always emphasize that engineers are leaders first. They are problem solvers, and they can be anywhere in society … It was really good to be trained up in that environment, and I am blessed to now work with and be mentored by other engineers that embody that very principle."