McNeill builds leadership skills for the future

During his first semester in the College of Engineering, Cade McNeill considered changing his major to psychology. McNeill, who grew up in Knoxville, Iowa, had always had an interest in construction, but in those early days of his college career he doubted if civil engineering was the right fit for him.

That changed when McNeill decided to attend a meeting of the UI’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) that fall. ASCE was looking for students to train for the executive board, and McNeill volunteered. McNeill, now a rising senior in the structure, mechanics and materials elective focus area, credits his early involvement in ASCE and the friends he made there with cementing his commitment to his plan of study.

ASCE also provided McNeill a chance to build his leadership skills. He served as vice president in 2018, president in 2019, and treasurer in 2020. He is also co-chairing the 2020 Corn Monument Committee with Collin Furlong.

“We’ve made an absolute turn-around,” McNeill says of the group, adding that he saw the group grow from a dozen participants his freshman year to as many as 50 in his junior year. Under the leadership of McNeill and previous president David Braun, ASCE was named the most improved student organization at the college’s 2018-2019 Professional Development Awards.

McNeill has pursued leadership opportunities beyond the Seamans Center as well. He served as president of the university’s Circle K International chapter. As an at-large senator for UI Student Government, he focused on creating educational opportunities for bystander intervention,, teaching students how to safely intervene in potentially problematic situations such as sexual assault and binge drinking. He has served as a vice president for his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and as vice president of leadership and education for the Interfraternity Council the Interfraternity Council.

“I have enjoyed getting to know Cade as a student in my classes and through ASCE, where I serve as the faculty advisor,” says Rick Fosse, professor of practice of civil and environmental engineering. “While watching Cade lead our ASCE student chapter, I have come to appreciate his leadership style and reliability.  These things seem to come naturally to Cade, and it will be fun to see where this takes him in 15 or 20 years.”

McNeill has a pretty clear sense of the course he would like his future to take.

“I really like the design engineer role,” McNeill says. “It gives me the freedom of the design aspect but also the challenge of technical aspect.”

An internship with steel producer Nucor last summer convinced McNeill that staying at the university to pursue his master’s degree in engineering was his best next step, and he was recently accepted into the college’s BS/MS program in civil engineering. He also plans to pursue an MBA while working towards his professional engineer license, with the hope of eventually working in a management role at Nucor. In the meantime, he continues to focus on leadership as an opportunity to serve others.

“It’s always been a piece of me to give back to the community that gives so much to me.”

Cade McNeill