Ramping up: Master’s degree a road to success for Ruth Klee, transportation engineer

Ruth Klee, a transportation engineer, has made a career of designing roadways.

Her latest project involves what is called a “loop ramp”: a circling back and return to her alma mater, The University of Akron (UA), for her master’s degree in civil engineering – putting her on the highway to a more successful and prosperous future.

“Having recently completed my master’s degree, I have a noticeably better understanding of the ‘big picture’ of transportation engineering and feel that I have added value to my company,” said Klee, the transportation project manager at the downtown Akron office of OHM Advisors.

Ruth Klee, a College of Engineering graduate of UA

Ruth Klee, transportation project manager at OHM Advisors, says the master’s program has helped her gain a “big picture” understanding of her field.

When she joined OHM – a community advancement firm providing architecture, engineering, planning services and more – in 2017, she was tasked with hiring, training and leading a team of engineers.

It was a position, she knew, that required her to continue learning – to continually enhance her knowledge and teaching abilities – so she enrolled in the master’s program at the College of Engineering.

“I wanted to increase my depth of knowledge in the transportation engineering field to be the best mentor possible for inexperienced engineers,” she said. “A master’s degree would also allow me to better serve our clients with a deeper understanding of the current challenges and solutions for providing safe, state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure. After more than 20 years in the industry, I have seen experienced engineers become complacent, and I did not want that to happen to me and wanted to continue learning.”

Klee completed the master’s program last fall, and has seen immediate benefits.

“I can say with certainty that I have already used knowledge from every class,” she said. “For example, I have been able to enter high-level planning discussions about the future of autonomous vehicles and to understand more clearly how transportation infrastructure spurs economic development. I also have a greater understanding about geographic information systems (GIS) that I can now utilize for projects. Graduate school has made me a well-rounded engineer and has given me a renewed commitment to my profession.”

Klee, who earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at UA in 1988 – going on to work for ARCADIS; Jones-Stuckey, a Pennoni Co.; and GPD Group before being hired by OHM – said that, as an undergraduate, she “had such a positive experience” with UA’s engineering program that it was a “natural choice” for her to return to the University for her master’s degree.

“The professors are all different now, but their commitment to students is the same as 30 years ago,” said Klee, who began her undergraduate studies at another university and rerouted to UA after hitting a roadblock.

“In the middle of my first semester of college at another university, studying nursing, I quickly became bored in my classes because there were no problems to solve, just a lot of memorizing,” she said. “Then a friend of a friend who was an engineering student at UA came to visit one day, and he talked about all the math and engineering classes he was taking. A week later, I met with the UA Dean of Engineering, who took time to talk with me about all the different engineering disciplines available. I transferred to UA the next semester.”

Now – having ramped up her expertise and credentials with the master’s degree – Klee is on the road to achieving her long-term goals.

“One long-term career goal of mine is to hold a more senior leadership role at OHM Advisors,” she said. “In that role I will ensure that my staff receives relevant training to keep pace with current engineering design concepts and applications, and utilize the latest technologies to increase productivity. Another long-term goal is to teach at the college level. Since a master’s degree is required for nearly all post-secondary teaching positions, I now have that qualification.”

Ruth Klee earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from UA in 1988 and completed her Master's in Civil Engineering at UA in 2018.

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