Kate Leblanc-Dilawari, A98, G00
TEA Steering Committee member and Senior Project Manager at Haley & Aldrich
Civil Engineer Kate Leblanc Dilawari (A98, G00) met with TIE intern Libby Mahaffy on a snowy evening in January 2011 to discuss her Tufts education and the future of the burgeoning Tufts Environmental Alumni chapter.
Libby Mahaffy: Tell me about your history with Tufts.
Kate Leblanc-Dilawari: I completed both my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Tufts. My undergraduate degree was in civil engineering. The summer after my junior year at Tufts, I worked as an intern with a local engineering firm, Haley & Aldrich, Inc. I really had a blast – I loved what they were doing. So I decided to get a master’s degree tailored to what I knew would help me return to Haley & Aldrich. My master’s degree was in GeoEnvironmental Engineering; a combination of geotechnical engineering (designing the underground pieces of tunnels and buildings) and environmental engineering (cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater). I’ve been working at Haley & Aldrich since I finished my master’s degree in 2000 and I still love it. I work with real estate developers and universities to help them remediate urban brownfield sites and make them healthy for new buildings to be built.
Tufts gave me the technical background that I needed to get a job in engineering, but the reality is that I do very little actual engineering — I spend my days communicating. Tufts students are well-known for being prepared with technical as well as communication skills like writing and presenting — things that are really critical to being a successful consultant.
I also take the technical concepts of what we’re doing–whether it’s the health impacts of a particular contaminant or the technical construction processes we’re planning to conduct at a site – and try to communicate them in layman’s terms. A lot of the parties we interact with, like lawyers, property owners, interested neighbors, and city officials don’t have a technical basis in what we’re doing; I often find myself in the position of having to explain complicated technical concepts so that we can negotiate a solution that works for everybody.
Why were you interested in being a part of the TEA steering committee?
I’ve been active with alumni events, primarily in opportunities to mentor current Tufts students. I’ve done that through both the School of Engineering and the Alumni Office. I thought it would be nice to have the opportunity for more regular involvement.
I’m active in a number of other professional organizations linked to my job and I’ve found that going to events is educational, but actively participating in the organization lets me build deeper networks and get more out of the experience.
What do you bring to the steering committee?
Through my participation in other organizations I’ve been actively involved in planning large events for years. I’m hoping that I have that opportunity here. It’s nice that we have a variety of professions represented on the committee – there aren’t any other engineers. We have a lawyer, an engineer, a couple of people who were in the UEP program. It’s a good mix. It’s nice to think of how broad the environmental community at Tufts is.
What are the next steps for the steering committee?
One of the challenges is that it’s very easy for us to plan events that are useful to the Boston area alumni, but how do we pull in and keep alumni who live in other areas involved?
I’m hoping that people who read this might reach out and offer some suggestions or say, “Hey! I am in DC/New York/San Francisco/Chicago and I am really interested in organizing events in my local area!” We could have a network of people doing that. We’re also hoping to take advantage of something like WebEx [teleconferencing technology] to allow people to participate from wherever they are.
Why would Tufts alumni want to be involved in the Tufts Environmental Alumni association?
Primarily, I think it’s a great networking opportunity. My company [Haley and Aldrich], for example, has a recruitment bonus program: already I’ve found two wonderful people through attending alumni events at Tufts. TEA offers a great opportunity and you never know what you’re going to find- maybe a new client, maybe someone to partner with to help solve a problem. I’ve had really great conversations with folks who work for my competitor firms – it’s really nice to know what they’re doing; it’s nice to develop those personal relationships. And it’s exciting to connect with people who have similar interests but are tackling those same problems from a different career field, a different perspective.
What should the TEA mascot be?
The first thing that comes to mind is an elephant waving a green leaf in its trunk.