Spring 2023 Letter from the Director

Dear alumni, friends and colleagues, 

Greetings from the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment (ESSIE). I am pleased to share the school’s continued progress and partnerships. To begin, we welcomed Forrest Masters, Ph.D., P.E., a school alum and professor, as the interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Masters for nearly two decades after he pursued his doctorate in civil engineering in 2004. He has some exciting plans, and I look forward to seeing how the college continues to improve under his leadership.  

Speaking of forward momentum, I am happy to announce that the Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering Civil and Department of Environmental Engineering graduate programs have been ranked No. 16 and No. 20, respectively. This year marks the fifth consecutive year with both graduate programs ranked in the top 20 among public universities. This achievement is due to the collective efforts of our students, faculty and staff. 

We believe building relationships with peer institutions is the key to successful research that will impact our students and society. Three representatives, Kyle Riding, Ph.D., a professor, Arnoldo Valle-Levinson, Ph.D., a University Term Professor, and Nancy McIlrath, the school’s graduate academic coordinator, went to South America to explore exchange opportunities among institutions and organizations. The school is initiating efforts to pursue university-wide agreements, so any group within the university can explore research and student exchange opportunities with Panama and Colombia. 

Further, we are proud to be part of a collaborative effort among multiple intuitions that will advance transportation research in America. We are among five institutions that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $10 million over five years to study and improve equitable transit-oriented communities. Xilei Zhao, Ph.D., an assistant professor in civil engineering and lead researcher for UF, will work with those universities to develop strategies with transit agencies across the country based on the study’s findings to enhance public transit systems to better serve these communities. 

Our students continue to impress, with our American Society of Civil Engineers Concrete Canoe (UF ASCE) team, Eckhoff Steel Bridge team, and the collective group, UF ASCE, all placing first at the Southeast ASCE Student Symposium. It is the first time since 2017 that both design teams placed first in their regional competitions, along with the overall group. Their success stories make it even easier for us to root for them at their national competitions this summer.  

I love hearing from our alumni and how the Gator Nation spans across generations. Larry Smith Jr. (BSCE, ’85) was destined to be a Gator, just like his father, Larry Smith Sr. (BSCE, ‘55, MSCE, ‘66). He explained how he was able to use his father’s journey to forge his own path in civil engineering. He also discussed how he plans to impact the future generations of Gators with the Larry and Ann Smith Fund, which he created in memory of his father.  

Thank you for your contributions on Giving Day. Thanks to your support, we raised over $57,546 in 24 hours for the ESSIE Excellence Fund, which enables students to collaborate with professors and become future leaders in their respective fields. 

As always, I wish you continued health and happiness.  

Best wishes, 

Kirk Hatfield, Ph.D.,





Spring 2023 Newsletter >>>