Founding a new on-campus student organization isn’t easy. It requires working through a lot of paperwork, meetings, and bureaucratic red tape. Founding the Chico State student chapter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) so that you and your civil engineering peers can participate in the organization’s annual Seismic Design Competition is an even bigger challenge. And doing so, while maintaining an outstanding GPA, tutoring underclassmen, preparing peers for their EIT licensing exam, and maintaining an internship sounds nearly impossible.
But for Jordan Beach, a civil engineering major scheduled to graduate in May 2021, it’s another day at the … well … beach.
“I sometimes get asked what’s the one piece of advice I would give to incoming civil engineering students. My answer is always the same: ‘Get involved in clubs and take on more than is expected of you.’ Learning in the classroom is great, but getting to physically model everything that is discussed in the lectures and textbooks really makes you think on a whole other level and it helps you retain information.
“Looking back, I’m glad I followed my own advice,” he continued.
By spring 2019, it was clear that Beach was an incredibly driven and gifted student. He earned the highest score among 77 students in “Fluid Mechanics,” one of civil engineering’s toughest courses. Success in that class as well as “Strengths of Materials” led to tutoring gigs, which helped him become a leader and popular student within the major.
When the department had the opportunity to participate in the EERI Seismic Design Competition, students and faculty were excited. There was only one problem: Chico State didn’t have a student EERI chapter on campus.
Someone had to step up and start the organization, and Beach was the natural choice. He took the lead on getting the chapter recognized by the international society, which entailed a review to ensure Chico State had the appropriate curriculum, faculty support, and student interest. From there, Jordan led the long bureaucratic process of securing Instructional Related Activities (IRA) funding from the University. After getting the organization founded and spreading the word among his peers, Jordan served as president of the student chapter and team captain at the team’s first competition, the Seismic Design Competition.
The organization built a to-scale model skyscraper and subjected it to earthquake simulation scenarios. It used multiple software programs to analyze the structure before the competition in the spring of 2020 in San Diego.
In San Diego, the team competed against EERI student groups from more than 50 colleges around the world. In addition to seismic simulations, Chico State’s team was judged on its proposal and supporting materials. While the team didn’t win, it learned how the competition itself worked and returned to Chico with a detailed, long-term organizational plan for how the chapter will approach the competition in the future.
“Many evenings when I was heading home, I would walk by the lab and see Jordan in there with a small group of students preparing for the competition. The fact that he could put this much effort into this competition and still maintain an excellent GPA is a testament to his work ethic, intelligence, and passion for structural engineering,” said Civil Engineering Department Chair Steffen Mehl. “It is clear that the other students look up to him and he is an excellent role model for our students.”
As it turns out, Mehl has himself to credit for recruiting Beach into the Chico State civil engineering program, even if he didn’t know it at the time. With his family, Beach drove up from his hometown of Loma Rica during the University’s annual Choose Chico event for prospective students. During that visit, Mehl gave him an unofficial private tour of Langdon Engineering Center.
“Even before I ever set foot on campus, I knew I was headed toward a STEM career,” said Beach. “During the tour with Dr. Mehl, I was able to get a feel for all the hands-on experiences I’d have as a civil engineering major.”
Now, he’s set his sights on graduate school. He has been accepted to Stanford University for fall 2021 to pursue studies in structural engineering. He also recently passed the PE Civil Structural Exam, a grueling eight-hour test. Most engineering professionals take the exam around age 30. He passed it before he turned 21.
“It was the hardest exam I’ve ever taken,” Beach said. “I had modest expectations when I started the process. But, after gathering the materials and spending a few hours studying each day, I figured I’ve spent so much time on it, I should do everything I can to pass.”
His ultimate goal is to continue using software to predict how seismic activity will affect different structures at a structural engineering firm. He currently interns at Haselton Baker Risk Group, a Chico firm that uses software modeling to assess seismic risk for building owners and insurance agencies.
He also plans to obtain his structural engineering license, which requires five years of professional experience.
As he prepares to leave Chico State, Beach said he’ll miss all the friends he’s made over the last four years both inside and outside the engineering department.
“Engineers typically have to deal with the introverted, geeky stereotype all the time,” he said. “But not Chico State engineers. The students and faculty I’ve met have helped shape me into who I am today. I am forever grateful. Throughout all of the fun shared experiences, we’ve become more than just students and faculty. It’s made the last four years an incredible experience.”