Home  >  News

ACI Foundation News Search

ACI Foundation News


Industry Impact Part 1: Through the ACI Foundation’s Fellowship and Scholarship Program

posted on
Industry Impact Part 1: Through the ACI Foundation’s Fellowship and Scholarship Program

Since the ACI Foundation’s establishment in 1989, the organization has striven to influence a future where everyone has the knowledge needed to use concrete effectively to meet the demands of a changing world​. For decades, ACI and the ACI Foundation have been supporting students who are studying in concrete-related fields—making strategic investments in ideas, research, and people to create the future of the concrete industry​—which is exemplified in the tagline “Building the Future.” 

Over the last two decades, the ACI Foundation’s Fellowship and Scholarship Program has been steadily growing. During that time, the program has helped fund the education of over 330 up-and-coming industry professionals by seeking out and awarding financial aid to high-potential students with varied career pursuits from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Middle East, and North Africa. 

In early 2022, the Foundation began the process of gathering, compiling, and organizing data from the last 20 years on its Scholarship program’s impact, not only on ACI, but on the concrete industry as a whole—including overall industry retention of ACI Foundation awardees, their continued involvement within ACI, their meaningful contributions to the concrete industry, and the legacies of mentorship shared from awardee to awardee.  

The Foundation’s Fellowship and Scholarship Program fundamentally provides financial aid to deserving students for tuition and school expenses, and optional industry mentorship. Fellowship finalists and awardees are also invited to attend ACI conventions within their award cycle for recognition and additional networking opportunities.  

Given the program’s emphasis on providing a holistic experience for students and a path to ACI participation, it comes as no surprise that the data shows a 93% overall industry retention rate for both ACI Foundation fellowship and scholarship winners since 2002e.  

Our awardees have contributed greatly to advancing the industry and ACI, working across sectors including research and education, concrete restoration and repair, design, code improvement, and more. They have, in turn, become mentors to up-and-coming concrete professionals, and their work, expertise, and dedication uplift communities, and make concrete safe and sustainable.  

The Foundation sat down with several past awardees to hear about their journey from receiving their award, establishing themselves in their careers, how they have impacted the concrete industry, and their plans for the future. Their stories are below. 

Supporting Young Members  

Anahid Behrouzi is a two-time Foundation fellowship awardee, receiving the ACI Foundation Presidents’ Fellowship and ACI Foundation Tribute to Founders’ Fellowship in 2014 and 2015, respectively. She was first introduced to ACI and the Foundation through her involvement in the student chapter at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her faculty advisor Daniel Kuchma [Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University and active ACI member]. While attending her first ACI Convention, Anahid was introduced to then Scholarship Council members Tyler Ley and John Schemmel, who encouraged her to maintain her involvement with ACI committees. 

“I got hooked from there,” she said. “I felt like they had trust in me and were encouraged when they gave me their time. At that point, ACI S-805 (Student and Young Professional Activities Committee) was run by faculty, but John [Schemmel] wanted to transition it to being student-run—and they asked me to be Secretary. I felt everyone was very supportive and that I actually had a place where my voice could be heard.” 

Anahid is now an Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo where she specializes in Reinforced Concrete and Earthquake Engineering. She has written and contributed to over thirty scholarly articles and research papers dealing with seismic performance of reinforced concrete engineering education, and DEI in the engineering sector. 

Her activity within ACI includes refining the Foundation’s Fellowship and Scholarships program, to provide even more opportunities for students and encouraging the ACI community to embrace students and the young professional members of ACI. Anahid has also made significant contributions to the ACI Professors’ Workshop and Women in ACI. 

Behrouzi went on to detail the impact of, not only receiving financial support from the ACI Foundation but also career support in the form of industry mentorship, which offered her inspiration and guidance as she started her career in the concrete industry.  

“Ron Klemencic [CEO of MKA] was my mentor initially, then he introduced me to Anne Ellis [CEO of Ellis Global]. I am fortunate when extremely busy industry leaders make time to meet with me at every convention. When you feel like you’re a part of a family you want to pay it forward.” 

Staying Involved in ACI  

“Completing a PhD is a leap that you take when you don’t really know if you’re going to make it.” Said ACI Fellow Tyler Ley. “But the fact that ACI supported me, invested in me, and believed in me; that was a really big deal.” 

As an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University, Tyler attended a forum led by concrete materials specialist and Army Corps engineer Bryant Mather, who spent his career and life pursuing excellence in concrete. 

“I knew about concrete, but I didn't really know about concrete—and the presentation made the hair on my neck stand up for two days,” said Tyler. 

Winner of the 2005-2006 Foundation Student Fellowship, Tyler is now a Regents Professor and the Gilbert Cooper Chair of Engineering at Oklahoma State University.  He is also the proud creator of a successful concrete-focused YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/tylerley).  This channel aims to educate people of all ages about the wonders of concrete and engineering. Tyler has endorsed countless applicants to the ACI Foundation student awards, made himself indispensable as a mentor to a broad range of awardees over the years, has delivered over 250 technical talks, and developed tools to evaluate concrete durability and mixture quality.  He is the Chair of 211-I Assessing Aggregate Gradation and actively contributes to nine other ACI committees. 

Tyler made a point of recognizing the impact of his many mentors over the years; both while he was completing his education and during his career. “I keep coming back to ACI conventions for all the great people that attend the meeting.  I've received so much mentorship and so much opportunity from ACI. This mentorship is a fundamental part of ACI.”  Just connecting with the ACI community offers informal mentoring through networking, knowledge gain, and educational and career opportunities for students and young professionals. 

Enriching Community Through Design 

Kyle Dunning was the 2011 recipient of the Baker Student Fellowship, 2012recipient of the Bertold E. Weinburg Scholarship, and has worked at Walter P. Moore for over ten years. Kyle has already assisted on many major infrastructure projects and was recently made a Principal at the company.  

“What I’ve found the most rewarding is the impact I can personally have on the built environment around me—and we're very fortunate that Austin is a very active market. There's a lot of building diversity that I get to contribute to. We've worked on the university arena and football stadiums here in town, as well as courthouses and hospitals. So, these big projects that the public interacts with every day are ideally adding value to the community and enriching their lives. Being able to innovate on the structure system but also provide a reliable and safe structure is very rewarding.”  

Dunning states that his biggest career accomplishment thus far has been serving as the lead structural and design engineer at the Texas Children's Hospital in Austin, which opened in February 2024. 

 “Just seeing that go from the early design and innovation phase to construction, and now to getting ready to open with nurses and doctors already testing out the space is really exciting.”  

Kyle also sits on an internal sustainability committee at Walter P. Moore which explores research topics such as new and upcoming systems for concrete as well as recycled aggregates, and carbon tracking in general for the company’s designs.  

“It's all about figuring out what’s achievable and what we can implement. The building industry is very comfortable with things the way they are, and making a pitch to change the process and introduce something new can be scary. But it can also be very rewarding. A goal of mine is to keep pushing the decision makers and funders of projects to try new things and to hopefully reap the rewards.”  

Contributing to Sustainability through Repair 

Heather Todak received her ACI Foundation Scholarship in 2015 as a graduate student at Purdue University, and soon after began working as an Associate with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE).  

“My ACI involvement picked up when I first began my career at WJE, and as a young associate the company was really supportive of me getting involved with technical committees early on.” she said.   

“My graduate research involved the use of nondestructive testing methods (NDT), which is the part of my work I’m most passionate about. Within the first couple years of my career, I got involved in ACI Committee 228 (Nondestructive Testing of Concrete) and related technical committees and subcommittees. Looking back, I think that involvement has helped guide my whole career path. Now NDT is a big part of my professional practice, and I'm an active contributor for several technical committees and subcommittees that are focused on NDT and repair of concrete.”  

Todak also served as a Chair for 228-0B, Visual Condition Survey of Concrete, which prepared the new ACI 228.4R “Guide for Visual Condition Survey of Concrete” released in late 2023.  

“In nondestructive evaluation, a lot of our work involves trying to better understand internal concrete conditions or potential defects that are not visible. I've had a few projects where we've been called into some challenging situations by building owners or contractors, and we have been able to clearly identify the extent of an issue and implement a repair strategy that the whole project team is confident in. And in a lot of cases, the alternative to that approach would be demolition and rebuilding. Being able to use these techniques to help prevent significant concrete waste is personally rewarding.”  

Heather is actively involved in ACI Foundation’s Scholarship Council, Committee C691-00 Nondestructive Concrete Specialist Certification, and Committee E905-TG1 for the development of a GPR certification workbook, among several others. She also contributes to Women in ACI and serves as a board member and chair of the Concrete Awards Committee for ACI’s Southern California Chapter.  

Getting young associates involved in ACI is critical for them to gain knowledge about concrete, grow their network, and sustain our global community that collaborates to create information on the best use of concrete.  

“Involvement with ACI helps get your name out there alongside some of the most influential people and brightest minds in whatever your area of interest might be. Connecting with that community is invaluable for a successful career, and it can help guide your work in the direction that you are most passionate about.”  

Updating Codes to Contribute to Safety  

Kevin Mueller was the 2009 and 2010 recipient of the Kumar Mehta Scholarship for Sustainable Concrete. The financial assistance allowed him to expand his studies into involvement in ACI and get involved in work he was excited about, especially code improvement.  

“I started attending Committee 216, Fire Resistance and Fire Protection of Structures, early on in graduate school and continued once I graduated. Now, I serve as Chair. My first job was at a protective design firm, where I designed for blast and vehicle impact and other extreme loads on buildings. That prompted me to get involved with the blast community at ACI, where I joined Committee 370, Blast and Impact Load Effects. Things just snowballed from there!”  

In addition to serving on the fire resistance, blast, and disaster reconnaissance (ACI 133) committees, he was invited to contribute to subcommittee 562-0F, Evaluation, Repair, and Rehabilitation of Concrete Structures (Fire) while they were revising the code.  

Mueller also sits on the ACI Foundation Scholarship Council. “It is a perfect avenue to help give back to ACI. The Foundation really jumpstarted my involvement [in ACI] by allowing me to go back to conventions during grad school and use that to further my career.”  

Kevin now works as an Associate for Thornton Tomasetti and specializes in protective design and extreme impacts on concrete structures such as blast, impact, and fire. He has been a consultant on projects across all sectors including major defense research at Pantex and China Lake.  

“All the companies that I see represented [at ACI Conventions], to me, are the top companies in the country. When you don't see people represented it makes you wonder why aren't they involved, and why aren't they trying to be at the forefront? To be a part of this industry, you need to help support the other side of it, which is all the technical committee work, guides, standards, and codes.”  

Involving Young Professionals 

Alvaro Ruiz Emparanza, winner of the 2019 ACI Presidents’ Fellowship, began his educational path in Spain and Germany and later moved to the United States to complete his PhD at the University of Miami. 

“My advisors were the current ACI president, Dr. Antonio Nanni, and the manager of the Structures and Materials Center at the University of Miami, Dr. Francisco de Caso. They both pushed me to get involved in activities other than my research. They were always saying: "Doing research is great, studying is very good, but you need to get out of the box. You need to network and get involved in professional organizations so that you make an impact in the 'real world’". 

Within three months of moving to Florida, and under Tony Nanni and Francisco’s mentorship, Alvaro signed up to become a student member of ACI and was then invited to present his research at the Fall 2017 ACI Anaheim Convention, and since, has never missed an opportunity to attend. 

Alvaro has spent his early career highly involved with the ACI Foundation Development Committee, ACI S-805 (Student and Young Professionals), eight additional ACI committees, including ACI 440 Fiber Reinforced Polymer Reinforcement) and worked extensively with the ACI Foundation’s Scholarship Council subcommittee to refine their mentorship program. He is currently the Chair of S-806 (Young Member Outreach). As an active young professional, he imparted what he believes is the best advice for students who wish to gain a better foothold with ACI and the industry. 

“I think the best advice I can offer is this: if your advisors grant you the opportunity to attend the [ACI] conventions, select the committees that best align with your interests and attend their meetings; sit at the forefront, engage with the committee chair, and be readily available to contribute". He said, “At the end of the day, the younger people are the ones that are going to be leading the institution. You need to show that willingness to be there and to contribute.” 

Supporting Current Students  

Dana Tawil, winner of the 2023 Daniel W. Falconer Memorial Fellowship, is a Structural Engineer in her third year of doctoral research at the University of Ottawa. She’s passionate about concrete restoration and letting her interests guide her career.  

“It's not just about design. It's not just about doing something innovative; you must have a passion towards what you’re doing otherwise you won’t want to advance [the area] or keep pushing forward. The more passionate you are, the more meaningful your research is.” 

Dana currently has three supervisors for her research: Dr. Beatriz Martín-Pérez-University of Ottawa, and member of the ACI 222 Committee on Corrosion, Dr. Martin Noël-University of Ottawa, and Dr. Leandro Sanchez-University of Ottawa; all of whom encouraged and supported her effort in applying for an ACI Foundation Fellowship.   

“When I received this award, I felt a responsibility. I feel like I have a responsibility to keep advancing this field because you see how much effort people put into creating and supporting the awards.” Said Dana.  

Tawil’s award also included an internship for the ACI Engineering Department, which she completed in November 2023. 

“My internship with ACI back in November was an eye-opening journey that surpassed my expectations. Coming from a background deeply rooted in concrete design and research, the challenges presented during the internship were both different and stimulating. Aside from contributing to the development of Artificial Intelligence software for retrieving information from ACI documents, participating in committee meetings provided me with a profound understanding of the detailed processes that occur behind the scenes before information is published. This exposure widened my perspective and allowed me to appreciate the comprehensive efforts involved in shaping our industry standards and advancements. Every aspect of the internship did indeed contribute to my professional growth.” Said Dana.  

“Dana was a great help to the Engineering Department during her time with ACI.” Said ACI’s Managing Director of Engineering and Professional Development Mike Tholen.  

“One of her tasks was to evaluate Artificial Intelligence software that could help ACI by looking through ACI documents to answer technical questions. She did an excellent job and clearly presented her work to the Engineering team and IT staff, allowing us to provide feedback to the software developer to improve the product. Dana was a great addition to the team for the short time she was at ACI, and we look forward to seeing her at future conventions.” 

Elevating Our Infrastructure Systems 

Winner of the Foundation’s W.R. Grace Scholarship in the 2008 cycle Robert Moser has recently been invited to add his expertise to the Foundation’s Scholarship Council.  

“Looking back, and I didn't really think about it until I joined the Scholarship Council, but I think I've been a member of ACI for a little over 20 years now. A lot of my professors had a strong engagement with ACI, which spurred me to get involved. ACI rolled out its free student membership several years ago, and that's definitely something students should take advantage of. It's a great opportunity to get access to resources and a community that will help your technical and career interests.”  

Robert was awarded a scholarship from the ACI Georgia Chapter around the same time that he received his Foundation scholarship. It was then that he was introduced to then-President David Darwin, with whom he has maintained a close working relationship.  

Moser currently works as a Senior Scientific Technical Manager at the Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC)—the research and development (R &D) arm of the Army Corps of Engineers. ERDC specializes in the research and development of infrastructure systems, environmental systems, energy, force protection, Arctic engineering, construction activities, geospatial mapping, and remote sensing technology for other federal departments—specifically the Department of Defense.  

“I work in the geotechnical and structures laboratory, which does most of our work in construction, materials, and structural engineering. Historically, some of the biggest names in the concrete community, including past ACI Presidents and Directors, have come out of the group that I started with here. We have a strong agency interest in collaboration with ACI. Most of what we reference is from ACI, and a lot of the things that we may be doing in our construction practice or developing through our R&D programs need ACI as a conduit to have a much broader impact.”  

Concrete and infrastructure are not only Robert’s career, they’re also his passion.  

“You hear the statistic all the time—[concrete] is the most used material in the world behind water. There's about a cubic yard of concrete dedicated to your existence somewhere in the world. From the road you drove on to get to work, the piping and utility systems that got water to your house to brush your teeth in the morning, bridges, protective structures that are in dangerous places in the world that are protecting our soldiers’ lives, the hydropower dams that are providing clean energy, etc. Concrete is everywhere and enables everything that we do. And although everybody has bright ideas for things that we can do with other materials and whatnot, there's nothing that's going to replace what concrete does. Concrete of the future may look a little different, but there's nothing that's going to replace concrete.”  

| Return


  1. CI4603Nehasil.pdf 3/1/2024 8:12:23 PM