Kaileen “Kai” Myers
Kai Myers, right, and Navy recruiter Chief Ronald Lewis.

Kaileen “Kai" Myers isn’t afraid to do the unexpected.

In June, Myers will leave Virginia to attend the United States Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Rhode Island, where she will be one of the few female civil engineers in attendance.

“I think it's really interesting going to the Navy as an officer and as a female in civil engineering where there's less than 10% of females,” she said. “I just also love trying things that are kind of unexpected, like putting myself in a position that a lot of people would not see.”

Myers, set to graduate Saturday with a bachelor’s in civil engineering and a minor in environmental engineering, has learned many lessons on leadership, project management and straightforward communication over the past four years.

Myers, whose father served in the Navy, was born at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. The family, including Myers’ twin sister, Jai, and a younger sister, moved around frequently, residing in California, Florida, and Guam before settling in Virginia Beach. “I've been moving, pretty much from kindergarten to about fifth grade,” she said. “I moved every three years.”

Myers attended the Governor's STEM Academy at Landstown High School where she was introduced to engineering and robotics.

When the time came to apply for college, Myers’ mother offered practical advice on selecting a field of study. “The main thing she wanted us to learn was that if you're getting a college degree, to make sure you love it and that you apply yourself to it, and that you can see yourself using your degree,” Myers explained.

Myers earned an associate degree in engineering from Tidewater Community College before transferring to ODU to study civil and environmental engineering.

At ODU, Myers’ life revolved around studying with friends and classmates. “We would go to the library every day together,” she said. “We always had a corner in the library and that was our spot. It’s just funny, you can just see how focused the engineering majors are.”

Myers has had several favorite professors at ODU, including Jaewan Yoon, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Doctor Yoon is very straightforward and when he sees potential, he makes sure that you earn it,” she said. “I really like that about him.”

Yoon, in turn, commends Myers, describing her as, “Ever-positive, with collaborative independence, indefatigableness and tenacity.”

This year, Myers served as the captain of the ASCE Concrete Canoe Team, a competition in which students construct a large canoe out of concrete and compete against other university teams.

In this role, she learned valuable lessons in project management, teamwork, and communication. “I was very straightforward with the team,” she said. “But at the same time, I respected them all.”

“My favorite part about Concrete Canoe was taking everyone's advice and trying to see how we could apply it, because we had no idea what we were going to do.”

Myers’ engineering internships also provided a variety of hands-on experiences. At the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), she learned about the importance of research by working with graduate and doctoral students. “At the time, they were trying to lower the dissolved oxygen to save energy for water bills,” she explained. “It was really interesting.”

As an intern at Hazen and Sawyer, she was treated like part of the team. “They put you on every project and treat you like an employee,” she said. Myers worked with pump station projects at the company.

During her third internship at Gannett Fleming, Myers watched as Jessica Hou, vice president of the company, took control of a room. “She showed how women can be in charge and how women can do anything,” Myers said.

At Gannett Fleming, Myers collaborated with staff on water-focused environments and also learned the value of community service.

She’ll apply all those lessons learned as she begins OCS in Rhode Island next month. After that, she’ll head to California for more training in project management and civil engineering.

In the long run, Myers’ dream job is to work on mitigating pollution in the ocean. “I was surrounded by the ocean all my life, and I love it,” she said.

However, building and constructing projects that benefit the community interests her as well. “When I lived in Guam, the military was doing construction there,” she said. “I saw roads being built for the community, so we were all able to go to school.”

“I would be happy as long as the job is uplifting the United States and the communities surrounding it,” she said.

Top Image: Kai Myers, left, served as captain of ODU’s ASCE Concrete Canoe team this year.