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Posted 1/28/2015

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By Mark Rankin
Nashville District

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 27, 2015) – Did you know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds more than structures and dam safety projects?  The Nashville District also uses a constructive approach to develop its engineers and encourages them to obtain their professional certifications.

Anthony Sparks, training coordinator for the Nashville District, said it’s important to continuously train and develop the district’s personnel because operations and construction projects in various states are very complex and require certified workers to operate and manage them.

“It’s much like getting your car worked on,” Sparks said.  “You wouldn’t want a mechanic that isn’t certified on your vehicle to perform the repair work. Likewise, we want our employees to be certified to do the required high level of work at our projects.”

Getting certified is an arduous process and requires a lot of dedication from employees who have to balance their professional and private lives to achieve their goal. Recently, eight people earned their professional certifications and shared their experiences of going through the process.

Five employees earned their Professional Engineering License and the distinction of becoming professional engineers. Ryan Clark, civil engineer in the Water Resources Section, Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch, 2010 graduate of the Tennessee Technological University with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Robert Dillingham, hydraulic engineer in the Water Management Section, graduate of Western Kentucky University with a degree in civil engineering with a minor in flood plain management; Chris Stoltz, environmental engineer in the Environmental Engineering Services Branch, 2009 graduate from Western Kentucky with a civil engineering degree; Loren Vidnovic, plan formulator and project manager in the Planning Branch, graduate from Vanderbilt University with civil engineering degree; and David Coan, mechanical engineer in the Civil Design Section, all earned this certification.

In addition, three employees earned their Project Management Professional certifications.  Jamie James, civil engineer in the Programs and Project Management Division; Loren Vidnovic, civil engineer, and Ramune Morales, project manager, Planning Branch Plan Formation Section, all earned this certification.

“This distinct accomplishment reflects years of hard work and preparation and is a demonstration of their exceptional engineering knowledge and experience,” said Lt. Col. John L. Hudson, Nashville District commander. 

Throughout the professional development journey, these employees had to commit to spending endless hours studying for their exams.

Vidnovic shared that she studied about water resources, engineering, cost estimating, structural analysis, road design, slopes stability analysis and project scheduling through a very fast-paced course.  She said she would take short breaks and would stay focused on her goal of earning two professional certifications. 

“I am so happy to have this exam behind me,” said Vidnovic.  “Obtaining my professional engineer license has been a goal since college and now I can finally concentrate on my job and wedding.  I am very proud of myself and think it should be the goal of every employee to improve personal skills by completing continuing education and preparing for career advancement through professional development.”

Dillingham said that he experienced a disruption in his family life as he prepared for the test. 

“It was hard but well worth it and I can attest I went all in and gave it my best effort,” said Dillingham.  “I have a new baby at home and now I can spend more time with my family.”

Randy Kerr, a professional engineer and hydraulic engineer in the Water Management Section, is a co-worker of Dillingham and said he recognizes his perseverance in earning his professional license. 

“I knew he was capable and we are very proud of him but most of all it is good to see him succeed,” said Kerr. 

The group also studied as a group for seven months leading up to the exam.  They spent 200 off-duty hours in private study and gathered for eight hours on Saturdays and Sundays for six weeks.

To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, work under a professional engineer for a minimum of four years, pass two intense competency exams and earn a license from their state’s licensure board.  To retain their licenses, professional engineers have to maintain their skills. Each state regulates its own practice of engineering to ensure public safety by granting professional engineers the authority to sign and seal engineering plans and offer services to the public.  

According to Vidnovic, the Professional Engineer exam tests the ability to practice competently in a particular engineering discipline.  


“Understanding your discipline is the key,” said Vidnovic.  “The exam is designed for engineers who have gained at least four years’ post-college work experience in their chosen engineering discipline.”

Yet the results are well worth the effort. By combining their specialized discipline skills with their high standards for ethics and quality assurance, professional engineers help make us healthier, keep us safer and allow all of us to live better lives than ever before.

Clark said he appreciates the training and diversity that he now has and feels he can offer more to his section and to the Nashville District.

"The study group discussions helped me to ignite a few ideas in our workforce which might otherwise have never happened," said Clark.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)

Chris Stolz David Coan engineers Hydraulic engineer Loren Vidnovic Nashville District Nashville Engineers PE professional engineers Professional Exam Robert Dillingham Ryan Clark U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE