Widening participation in engineering


- Anne Tolson


Tim Berntsen strongly believes in encouraging and supporting diversity in the field of engineering. And he found plenty of opportunities to do just that during the past academic year as president of the UVic Engineering Students’ Society (ESS).

“I encourage everyone—especially those most privileged—to continue the fight to make the field of engineering as inclusive and diverse as possible,” says Berntsen, who graduated in July with a BEng in Civil Engineering. 

“Diversifying the engineering profession will engage all of the best minds from around the world, increase innovation capacity, and allow everyone and anyone with an interest in STEM to fully pursue their passion.”

On a typical day, Berntsen often met with faculty members to discuss new initiatives, advocated on behalf of engineering students to groups such as the UVic Students’ Society or the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, or helped plan and run the events and services that the ESS provides to all engineering students.

“The highlights of my time as ESS president include the many successful large events that we ran, advocating for issues such as equity, diversity and inclusivity within the faculty, and getting to work every day with a talented and incredible team of inspiring engineering student leaders,” says Berntsen.

These events included the Order of Pi charity event for the Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island and several student-industry mixer events.

In December 2019, Berntsen and other ESS members attended an event where a first-year student was presented with the first 30 by 30 Women in Engineering Award, created by Michelle Mahovlich. The ESS contributed to the new award, which will be provided annually to a women entering UVic Engineering. The award recognizes Engineers Canada’s 30 by 30 initiative, which aims to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by 2030.

“The people I met and the experiences I gained were all invaluable to my time at UVic and they will stay with me for the rest of my life,” says Berntsen. “The non-technical knowledge and skills that I gained through such an intensive extracurricular position were a perfect supplement to the very technical knowledge that I gained from my classes.”

In the midst of all these activities, Berntsen somehow also managed to excel academically, co-winning the 2020 Department of Civil Engineering Graduation Medal.

Berntsen now works full-time at Omicron as a construction project coordinator. He was offered a position at the Victoria company after completing a co-op last fall.

“I’m so glad to be back,” he said. “Between my fall co-op and the past month or so of my new position, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Omicron so far. I look forward to what the future holds!”

Undoubtedly, that future will involve having a positive impact both on his profession and his community.

“I want to make a difference in my community, give back to the organizations and institutions that have done so much for me, and all the while pursue my interests and passions to their fullest extent.”


In this story

Keywords: convocation, diversity, student life

People: Tim Berntsen

Publication: The Ring

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