Dr. Jera Sullivan’s career path began with a not-so glamorous county highway department job—shoveling asphalt, landscaping ditches, picking up garbage, and even disposing of roadkill.  

“It sounds disgusting to most people,” said Sullivan. “But it gave me a sense of service to the communities that people live, work and play in every day. This led me to the civil engineering major.”  

Sullivan attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which didn’t offer engineering majors. What it did offer was a dual degree program—after three years of foundational courses in math and science with an emphasis on physics, Sullivan transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study engineering for two more years.  

In 2009, she earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Eau Claire, and a bachelor’s in civil and environmental engineering from Madison. Sullivan continued her studies at Madison, getting her master’s degree in 2011.   Sullivan worked as a program controls engineer at Cotter Consulting Incorporated in Milwaukee, and as a transportation construction inspector, for DAAR Corporation in Neenah, Wisconsin.  

“In those jobs, my best days were when I ran training sessions on new technology, processes, and best practices,” she said. “I wanted to be able to do that sort of training every day.”  

So, Sullivan decided to pursue her doctorate in construction engineering at Arizona State University and then go into teaching full time. In 2016, she accepted a faculty position in MSOE’s Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department, where today she is the construction management program director.  

“I was looking for a university with a heavy emphasis on teaching and learning, and MSOE was the perfect fit,” she said.  

In academics, you never stop learning, said Sullivan. “MSOE, in particular, focuses on this learning by providing students and faculty the opportunity to really get to know one another. Through these relationships with students I have learned about effective teaching, changes in the industry, and what it is like to be a student in today’s world.”  

Construction Project Management is her favorite course to teach, she said. “I like it because the field is very nuanced. Good construction managers must be technically sound but also be skilled in communicating and understanding people. It is the combination of these skills and how they work together that I really love to teach to students.” 

Keeping a classroom active and engaging leads to greater learning, but that doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s not always easy, said Sullivan. As a CREATE Faculty Fellow, she would like to support the CREATE Institute by becoming a resource for faculty who want to make the most out of their classroom experience.   

“Ultimately, I want faculty to feel a sense that they are supported in their teaching goals,” said Sullivan. “I believe we will do this by developing workshops to present different teaching techniques, providing a center for information and discovery, and creating a network of communication. I believe the more faculty are supported in their teaching goals the more students will be supported in their career goals.”  

Outside of MSOE, Sullivan spends most of her time chasing around her 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and spending time with her husband, Kyle. “I also enjoy running and hope to complete an Ironman Triathlon…someday.”