Orange County Branch Newsletter

March 2022

ASCE OC Construction Institute

2022 Women in Construction Week

By Maryam Takla, EIT & Melissa Hilsabeck, EIT | CI Committee

Our 2nd Annual Women in Construction Week was a HUGE success! On behalf of the Orange County Construction Institute, we would like to thank everyone who made this hybrid week of events possible. Thank you to our amazing sponsors: SKANSKA, Turner Construction, LINXS, ASCE Los Angeles Section, Port of Long Beach Construction Management Division, Ardurra, and Steiner Consulting Inc. A special thank you to Radians who provided two women’s PPE vests to raffle off to our attendees; Congratulations to Annie and Valeria!

Overall, we had about 140 attendees throughout the week, awarded $5,500 in scholarships, and awarded two companies with our new Catalyst for Change Award. Below is a brief recap of each event including links to recorded sessions and photos.

Construct Your Career Monday kicked off with a panel of industry experts highlighting important milestones within a construction project. Melissa Ward with Turner Construction presented on preconstruction logistics and operations; Nadirah Wright with Jacobs presented on roles and responsibilities of a construction manager; Wendy Brefka with Rosendin Electric presented on being a General Foreman and managing field responsibilities; and Jaclynn Sandoval with the Port of Long Beach presented on being an inspector. Each presenter shared a bit about their journey to their current positions and challenges they have overcome along the way. A full recording can be found here: ASCE OC Women in Construction Week 2022 - Construct Your Career Monday

“Jaclynn was very inspirational. I think her story was really great! Especially since she faced pushback and still persevered. Many would give up and she didn't, which is awesome!” – Michelle Sabers, Student at UCI

Tech Talk Tuesday was a one hour lunch'n learn presentation by Jared Litchenthaler, a Technical Sales Engineer with Bluebeam. The presentation covered Bluebeam Studio highlighting the different applications for Projects and Sessions. A full recording can be found here: ASCE OC WIC Week 2022 - Tech Talk Tuesday - Bluebeam Studio

Women Empowerment Wednesday hosted a diverse panel of industry leaders to share their guidance and unique perspective on the industry. YMF Member Natalie Jensen from WSP moderated this panel which included Kimberly Wilson, Senior Manager of Construction Services at LA Metro; Daisy Verhast, Project Manager with Turner Construction; Aliya Popatia, a Project Engineer with Clark Construction; and Stephanie Gunawan-Pirnier, an Engineering Manager at John Wayne Airport. The event consisted of a panel discussion on various career aspects and advice followed by breakout rooms for more intimate questions and conversations with our speakers.

Tech Talk Thursday focused on construction scheduling and Primavera P6 presented by Kenneth McBroom with McCarthy. This interactive presentation utilized the Mural platform, which allowed participants to vote on scheduling questions throughout the presentation. A full recording can be found here: ASCE OC WIC Week - Tech Talk Thursday on Scheduling and P6

Scholarship Saturday was held in-person at the Pelican Courtyard in Newport Beach, CA. With 35 attendees, this brunch event was filled with scholarships, awards, networking and a mimosa bar to top it all off! Dr. Giovanna Brasfield provided a truly inspiring keynote address highlighting the accomplishments of women in industry and all those who have supported the shift along the way.

Dr. Giovanna Brafield with the scholarship recipients.

With the support from our sponsors, we were able to award four $1,000 University Scholarships and one $1,500 Trade Scholarship. This year’s scholarship awardees include:

Taylor Silva is a Construction Management student at Cal State Long Beach. Due to unexpected challenges, she has been working towards her bachelor's degree since 2015, but continues to persevere to pursue her long-term goal of running her own development company. She is heavily involved in the CM program at CSULB as a member of the Association of General Contractors and serves as a Project Executive on the Design-Build Team. She recently earned her real estate license and learns as much as she can every day.

Michelle Sabers is an aspiring civil engineer with a passion for engineering and construction. She will be graduating this June with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from UC Irvine with an emphasis on structures. Over the course of her academic career, she has held several leadership and project management positions and this year she will be leading the UCI Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) as the Seismic Design Competition (SDC) team captain. Following graduation, Michelle is planning to attend graduate school and gain her Master's in structural engineering so that she can pursue her passion to become a Structural Project Manager.

Maria Medina-Muñiz is a third-year civil engineering student at UC Irvine. She currently serves as the ASCE UCI Internal Vice President and interns at the City of Santa Ana Public Works Department. In the future, she hopes to work in construction management and help pave the way for more women to join the construction industry.

Kyra Tan is a fourth-year student at Cal State Long Beach studying Civil Engineering and Mathematics. She is proudly a part of the ASCE student chapter and serves as this year's Co-President. She currently interns at Port of Los Angeles in the Construction Division and wishes to continue growing her construction knowledge in any opportunity given!

Our first-ever Trade Scholarship was awarded to Lilia Huerta. She is a second stage apprentice from Local 213 Southwest Carpenters and serves as the Co-Chair for the Local 213 Sisters Committee. As one of the very few tradeswomen in her region, she works to make a name for herself and other women in construction every day.

We also introduced a new company award called the Catalyst for Change Award. In its inaugural year, we awarded two companies for their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the engineering and construction industry. Congratulations to Kimley-Horn and the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works/LA Sanitation and Environment. Please see their individual articles included in this March 2022 Newsletter.

Nikki Kerri and Jennifer Steen accepted the Catalyst for Change award on behalf of Kimley-Horn.

Michael Simpson accepted the Catalyst for Change award on behalf of the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works and LA Sanitation and Environment. Commissioner Dr. Mike Davis was also present but is not pictured here.

A huge thank you to the entire Women in Construction Week Committee: Mario Martinez, Esmeralda Briseno, Alex Lin, Natalie Jensen, Sam Saldivar, Marionne Lapitan, Maryam Takla, and Melissa Hilsabeck. We look forward to seeing you next year! If you’re interested in joining the WIC Week Committee, please email


About the Author(s):

Maryam Takla is a project engineer at Turner Construction. Her projects have ranged from complex pharmaceutical projects to the recently completed SoFi stadium. Outside of work, you can find her on the mats training at her local Jiu-Jitsu academy. Maryam can be contacted at or LinkedIn.

Melissa is a Capital Projects Coordinator at the Port of Long Beach. She received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona. Melissa has been involved with ASCE OC YMF since 2015 and has held various Board positions. She is currently serving on the ASCE OC Branch Professional Development Committee and is the Region 9 Younger Member Chair. Melissa can be contacted via email at


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