Experiences of a Combined Civil Engineering and Architectural Studies Major

portrait maggie sexton dwyer

Student Maggie Sexton-Dwyer Shares the Value of a Combined Major at Northeastern

Maggie Sexton-Dwyer, E’23, wears many hats on the Northeastern campus. From her involvement in Service-Learning and as a Service Learning TA, to her participation in the Roxbury Robotics program and her newly declared combined Civil Engineering and Architecture major, Maggie is always working on a new project. We had the opportunity to catch up with her to learn more about her combined major and involvement with these organizations on campus.

Tell us about your combined Civil Engineering and Architecture major? Why did you choose to pursue this combined discipline? 

I just recently switched into the combined Civil Engineering and Architectural Studies program, which wasn’t offered when I first came to Northeastern. I made the switch because I am really interested in smaller-scale projects, whereas civil engineering is focused on larger scale buildings and infrastructure. I was originally studying just Civil Engineering, but by the time I switched to the combined degree I was pretty far along the civil engineering path. By adding the combined major, rather than switching completely to architecture, I’m able to explore how the two disciplines relate to each other, continue my civil engineering curriculum while adding on aspects of architecture, and redirect my career path towards opportunities I’m more passionate about. I’ve found that my background in civil engineering has helped me view my architecture studies from a unique perspective and I can view projects from a structural standpoint but also a design standpoint.

How did you get involved with Service-Learning? What are some of your responsibilities as a S-L Teaching Assistant? 

I got involved in service-learning in my first year at Northeastern by taking the service-learning section of Cornerstone of Engineering with Professor Susan Freeman. In this service-learning class, students go to different community centers, boys and girls clubs, and schools in Roxbury and host a LEGO robotics program. I enjoyed this service so much that I decided to stay involved by becoming an S-LTA. In this role, I’ve introduced a class of first-year students to service-learning, community service at Northeastern, and our community partners. I’ve also prepared them for service by presenting and having discussions on asset-based community development, cultural competency, and reflection to help them engage responsibly and respectfully with the community they’re serving. I also work closely with Professor Freeman to maintain communication with our community partners, plan for our service (which has looked very different than usual due to the pandemic!), and make sure the students have everything they need and their service is going smoothly.

student with Roxbury Robotics student participants

Tell us about your involvement with Roxbury Robotics!

Roxbury Robotics is a club at Northeastern that was formed by students who took Professor Freeman’s service-learning class and wanted to continue volunteering with the robotics program. In the past, we’ve partnered with the Timothy Smith Network (TSN), which is an organization dedicated to bringing technology and technology education to the residents of Roxbury as a springboard for success in today’s technology-driven world. TSN has many community centers throughout Roxbury that both kids from the community and NU mentors in Roxbury Robotics go to experience the robotics program. This year, because everything was virtual, we hosted virtual workshops on different STEM topics, like Scratch Coding, Engineering Design Challenges, and Rube Goldberg Machines, all over Zoom. For the past couple of years, I’ve been a lead mentor at one of our service sites where I lead the weekly sessions with the kids at that site. Now, I’m Vice President of Roxbury Robotics so I’ve played a role in restructuring our program to the virtual format, organizing the signups and placements of Northeastern students and the kids participating in our program, and supporting all the lead mentors at our different workshops.

Tell us about a Northeastern professor/ class that has been particularly impactful over your college career. 

Professor Freeman, who taught my service-learning class, who I’m now an S-LTA for, and who is the advisor for Roxbury Robotics, has made a huge impact on my college career. Her commitment to our service-learning class and promoting STEM education to the wider Boston community has inspired me to stay involved with service-learning.

What advice would you give to prospective or current students interested in pursuing a combined degree? 

If a prospective or current student is considering pursuing a combined degree, I would say it’s a great way to open up your options for future careers. By switching to both Civil Engineering and Architectural Studies, I feel prepared to work in both fields and have the flexibility to explore more opportunities related to civil engineering, architecture, or both. I’d also say that even if you think it might be too late to make the switch, you should still ask your advisor and explore your options. I switched after completing two full years at Northeastern and one of my co-ops, but I was still able to do it and I’m on track to graduate in five years like I was planning. I had been considering adding architecture to my major in some capacity and kept coming back to the idea of the combined major, so if you find yourself on the fence about it for a while, it’s probably a good sign that you won’t regret adding the combined major.

Source: College of Arts, Media, and Design

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering