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Outside view of Engineering Systems Building.

Student Awards: Road Trip Was Pathway to Engineering

By Sherry DiBari

Savannah Moretz's 14-month road trip across the 48 contiguous states and parts of Mexico gave her some time to think about life.

"I spent considerable time hiking, then wandering about towns, then hiking again, which led to a lot of thinking about how THIS turned to THAT," she said. "This" being earth materials and "that" being civilization."

That led her to civil engineering at Old Dominion University.

Moretz, who graduates next week with a 3.98 GPA, was recently named an Outstanding University Scholar for the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

The award, bestowed by the ODU Alumni Association, honors the undergraduate student from each college with the highest grade-point average and at least 60 completed credit hours.

Moretz already had a degree in economics and foreign affairs before she found her niche in engineering.

At ODU, she focused her studies on water sustainability and water treatment.

As part of her senior design project, Moretz and a few classmates designed a Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) pump.

"We went from knowing very little about pump stations to designing one from scratch - with advice from professionals in the area," she said.

"It has been an interesting and validating experience role playing as an engineer and applying classroom knowledge to a real project," she said. "Better yet, it's been a great time to make mistakes and learn from them before venturing beyond the classroom."

Moretz cited Kathleen Boone, an instructor in civil and environmental engineering, as her most inspirational faculty member.

"She knows how to make class enjoyable, whether she is teaching statistics or a three-hour lecture," Moretz said. "Enjoyable learning means effective teaching, and Dr. Boone puts in the extra effort every time."

Boone, in turn, was also inspired by Moretz.

"She has prompted me to become a better teacher with her challenging questions and incomparable work ethic," Boone said. "Her passion for environmental engineering and innate curiosity are an inspiration."

"She is truly a gift to our field, and I look forward to seeing the valuable, lasting impact she will have in our world," Boone added.

Moretz won't be traveling far after graduation.

She is staying at ODU for a master's in environmental engineering focused on research for HRSD's SWIFT project.

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