The civil engineering major finishes a two-campus, two-degree college journey this fall.

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Nicklaus Foster developed an eye for civil engineering early.

He grew up in Columbia, Maryland, and spent a lot of time working for his father’s construction business around Washington, D.C. It was there he learned the difference between design and labor in construction and found the path he wanted to pursue in life.

“I didn’t plan on shoveling rocks for the rest of my life; I wanted to look at the other side of construction, so that’s what got me into engineering,” said Foster, who will graduate with his civil engineering bachelor’s this fall. “My dad also guided me toward civil engineering because his construction practice focuses on concrete and masonry — things in the civil engineering realm. He gave me a little nudge and created that exposure, which was super important for me.”

Nicklaus Foster

Foster didn’t come to Georgia Tech immediately. In Fall 2018, he enrolled in Morehouse College’s Dual-Degree Engineering Program, which allows students to get two degrees over five years. Students spend three years at Morehouse before transferring to a partner institution to finish their engineering studies.

Foster quickly realized Atlanta was where he wanted to be, so Georgia Tech — with one of the best civil engineering programs in the country — became his clear first choice. He couldn’t wait to tap into the opportunities that awaited him.

Yet, like virtually all of his fellow graduates, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench in his plans. Foster found himself looking for new ways to cultivate his curiosity and feed his interest in engineering and design. So he stepped out on his own to create a different path.

“During the strange pandemic downtime, I founded a small business called Foster Engineering and Design. I primarily do structural work — interior floor plans, retaining wall design, things like that,” Foster said. “I’m doing everything by myself and the company has been growing slowly, which is intended. I can’t take on eight different projects at a time with school going on too, but it’s been a good journey.”

Foster always has been driven to take the next step, from working in construction to studying civil engineering, moving from Maryland to Georgia, taking on a dual-degree program, founding his own company. But, he credits the College of Engineering’s Center for Engineering Education and Diversity for allowing him to take some of his biggest steps in college.

“Finding CEED was a big help, because it took the big-pond-little-fish vibe I felt and turned it into a big-fish-little-pond situation,” Foster said.

Right away, Foster noticed the CEED staff looked out for him — and they were able to open doors for him, too, like taking him to the National Society of Black Engineers conference, where he and other students represented Georgia Tech alongside CEED staff.

“When I’d tell them, ‘This is what I want to do, and I’m really interested in talking to these X, Y, and Z companies,’ they would present opportunities to me,” Foster said.

The next steps for Foster will be across the McCamish Pavilion stage at graduation to celebrate finishing his bachelor’s degrees at Tech and Morehouse. And then, he’ll keep working to develop his business while pursuing civil engineering job opportunities at several larger firms.

When he thinks back over his college years, Foster said he sees how each step he took led him to the next, pushing him to be better each day. And along the way, he learned how important it was to advocate for himself in the process.

“I would say learning how to think for myself has been very important. Not always following the masses has been a big personal growth moment for me through college,” he said.

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Center for Engineering Education and Diversity (CEED)

CEED collaborates with Georgia Tech offices and student organizations, alumni, national organizations, corporations, the K-12 community, and other universities to create and support a diversified engineering workforce.

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