Our Islands, Our Future

After 20-plus years in the business, geotechnical engineer Theresa Nunan has fulfilled a lifelong goal to become independent and establish her own company. Now she’s sharing her passion for engineering with young people, hoping they’ll get past the stereotype that “engineers are nerds.”

A mother of two sons, one of whom is studying aerospace engineering in college, Nunan said: “Engineers are often creative people.” To do their jobs, they must be innovative and thrive in a variety of skills including project leadership, effective communication with people and sound financial management of time and resources. “Engineering can be a very exciting and innovative field,” she said. “There are a lot of aspects to it.”

National Engineers Week is set this year for Feb. 17-23. As part of the celebration, Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology Project will present “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” on Feb. 21. The event is open to 7th- and 8th-graders with applications due Feb. 13 to Host organizations include Maui Electric Co. and the County of Maui Wastewater Reclamation Division in Kihei. For more information, contact Mapu at Nunan has previously served as a career-shadowing mentor and a coordinator of Engineers Week events featuring math contests for middle school students. “To expose kids at an early age to what they can do with their math and science skills, I think is great,” Nunan said. “I would have loved to have what they have today when I was going to school.”

She said the field of engineering is vast, with options ranging from aerospace to environmental and geotechnical engineering, a branch of civil engineering that specializes in soil and rock foundation. Nunan, a native of Maine, settled on Maui after 22 years of work in her home state. She said she chose geotechnical engineering because it takes her both indoors and outdoors. “I love it because of the balance of field work and office work and lab. I get it all,” she said.