Facilities gives students major experience, real world insights

Trinh, Briana and Christoph are among the many UW students who’ve worked with UW Facilities units across campus. For some, the experience isn’t just a part-time job but a blueprint to a new career.

Powerful connections

Tacoma native Trinh Ha, who graduates in June with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, credits her experience with UW Facilities’ Engineering Services with helping her land her dream job at Stantec, a consulting and engineering design firm.

From drafting and updating electrical drawings into AutoCAD for the High Voltage Shop to developing a proof of concept for the fire alarm system, Trinh’s been very busy. 

Trinh Ha.jpg

Trinh Ha

Trinh Ha

Hometown: Tacoma

Senior, Electrical Engineering

“When I went through the interview process, I felt incredibly fortunate because my internship with Facilities made me a very competitive candidate,” Ha says. “My interviewers knew my supervisor [Tony Fragada] because they’ve done a lot of work with him and the University. The interview felt more like a conversation because we already had that common connection.”

Briana Zimmer, a spring 2019 graduate in mechanical engineering, found her post-college job even closer to home. She’s now an operations engineer with Campus Utilities and Operations after starting out at the Power Plant as a student assistant. 

Brianna Zimmer.jpg

Briana Zimmer

Briana Zimmer

Hometown: Renton

Spring 2019 graduate, Mechanical Engineering

Working for UW Facilities as a student gave her “hands-on, practical experience in an engineering environment, something that students just don’t get in class,” she says. “After having personally operated and maintained equipment as well as learned the principles of their function from operators, mechanics, and control technicians here, I have a much broader understanding of not just how the equipment functions but also the entire power plant. I think it’s made me a well-rounded engineer.”

Harkarn Bains, a junior, credits the UW’s Construction Management program with similarly making him better prepared for life after college because of its mix of business and science classes and a required internship. For that internship, he’s been working for UW Facilities’  Project Delivery Group, which is responsible for hundreds of small and large capital projects constructed at the University every year.

Harkarn Bains.jpg

Harkarn Bains

Harkarn Bains

Hometown: Seattle

Junior, Construction Management

Bains has worked on projects ranging from $100,000 to $1.9 million dollars, meeting with clients and general contractors as well as learning from Project Delivery Group staff. He had a chance to job shadow a construction manager who worked with a team to re-side a dorm for Housing and Food Services, giving him exposure to scaffolding techniques, the remediation process of an existing structure, and installation of siding material.

“I’ve learned how to problem-solve, how to ask concise questions, be more resourceful, time management, interview skills, and the importance of a work-life balance,” he says. “I have so many people I can reach out to for advice and mentorship, not only about construction, but school and my personal life as well – it’s just an awesome place to be.”

Christoph at desk.jpg

Christoph Strouse

Christoph Strouse

Hometown: Seattle

Senior, Urban Planning


In another Facilities unit, UW Sustainability, senior Christoph Strouse is working on transferring energy and water data into a database for the UW’s new Green Building Standards program. Those standards will eventually be used by the general contractors Bains has been working with, with students playing a key role in the whole lifecycle of UW Facilities work.

Strouse says his internship has confirmed for him that he’s pursuing a profession he truly believes in: ecological urban planning. Upon graduating, he’ll be working with a sustainability and planning consulting firm hired to develop King County’s next generation of Green Building Tools. But he’s planning on returning to the UW next year for graduate studies in urban planning and public policy and to contribute to the development and implementation of UW’s Sustainability Plan.

'My favorite part is the people'

Not all UW Facilities interns work behind the scenes: students play a key role in helping with outreach efforts to the campus community.

Samina Helsley.jpg

Samina Helsley

Samina Helsley

Hometown: Woodinville

Senior, Political Science

If you’ve called Transportation Services’ Commute Options team to get help with your trip to campus over the last two years, you might have talked with Samina Helsley. Her colleagues say she’s a true multitasker and incredible trip planner, having created more than 400 personalized trip plans. Now a senior, Samina says the work has helped her hone the soft skills that aren’t necessarily taught in school.

“My favorite part about this job is the people — the people I get to work with in the office and the customers I get to interact with,” she says. “In the future, I hope to pursue a career in policy or a degree in law and this job has helped me gain people skills and provided me with experience in problem-solving.”

Shubha Tripathi.jpg

Shubha Tripathi

Shubha Tripathi, at left, with Suzanne LeMere at a recent UW Surplus tabling event

Hometown: Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

Junior, Economics

Similarly, junior Shubha Tripathi says interacting with customers and helping table events for Moving & Surplus has taught her how to be more professional and helped shape her long-term career goals of working in the banking sector in a client-facing role.

“Interacting with clients, over the phone and at events has made me feel that sales would be a good field for me to get into,” Tripathi says.

Nawon Kim works with UW Recycling to motivate and encourage people to make more environmentally conscious choices in their daily lives. Recent campus events she’s worked on include RecycleMania, Trash-In and Earth Day

Nawon Kim.jpg

Nawon Kim

Nawon Kim

Hometown: Busan, South Korea

Sophomore, Environmental Studies and Political Science

“By interacting with new people in the outreach events and sharing what I know and believe in, I’m constantly learning to communicate more comfortably about environmental issues to people of different backgrounds and beliefs,” Kim says. A sophomore, Kim says she would eventually like to work in environmental policy for an international organization or NGO.

'A real win-win'

Perhaps the students’ biggest fans are the UW Facilities staff they work with.

Cesar Escobar was one of Trinh Ha’s supervisors and says her willingness to learn meant she soon became one of the team at Engineering Services. “I was able to task Trinh with projects that started from a basic level to more complex over a short amount of time. It made me very proud when she shared the news that she’d landed a position at a major consulting firm.”

Over in Moving & Surplus, Suzanne LeMere praises Shubha Tripathi’s positive and upbeat manner at tabling events, helping to engage attendees. “I really love that Shubha and other student assistants in Facilities and the University as a whole get real on-the-job training and we also benefit by having them help. It’s a real win-win.”

Construction manager John King, who supervised Harkarn Bains, agrees that the benefits go both ways. “Our department not only gets another employee to help out in our office but the students are able to get real-life, on-the-job experience. That helps shape their future goals, and improves their knowledge base, which improves the knowledge base of the community.” 

Interested in working for UW Facilities? Internships and student assistant positions are regularly posted at Handshake, the UW’s online job and internship database for students. Alice Ven contributed to this article.