SAVANNAH, Ga. – During her senior year while studying biology at Tennessee State University, Pamela Backus began working in a ranger co-op program, an opportunity that steered her career unexpectedly. She originally envisioned herself working in research, but the co-op program directed her towards a different possibility: Working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The co-op program afforded Backus the opportunity to see what kind of work she could do with the Corps while she was still studying in college. After working in the co-op program for two semesters and the following summer as a badged ranger at Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee, Backus began training to work for the Corps in what she called the perfect transition out of school.
Backus, a native of Columbus, Ohio, will now see her hard work and dedication as a biologist with the Corps awarded. Announced last November, she is a selectee for the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award for the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Awards STEM Conference. Backus received the award during the Technology Recognition Event hosted virtually in Washington February 17-19.
Backus said it felt good to be recognized, adding that it’s something that pushes her to continue steadfastly with her training and work.
“When you do something that is significant, you feel like you matter a little bit more and that in itself is a reward,” said Backus. “It pushes me to try to do better and my best.”
Backus said working with the Corps gives people the chance to try different things without outside competition and on a temporary basis, which allows people to explore what they really enjoy doing. After completing her two-year training program, she completed two different temporary details for the Nashville District, one in water quality and another in environmental planning.
“I think that’s what the Corps is good at,” said Backus. “You don’t stay stagnant. Just being able to go somewhere for four months and still come back without any hiccups was really a blessing.”
Backus is a firm believer that the co-op program is a great opportunity for anyone in college who isn’t quite sure about a career path.
“[The program] gives you a short section of time with no real hard obligations,” said Backus.
Looking to the future, Backus said she’ll remain open to opportunities no matter where their located.
“I’m willing to try, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll make it short-term. If it works out, great. I’ll make it long term,” said Backus.
To learn more about Pamela Backus, check out this video.
To learn more about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit https://www.usace.army.mil/