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Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day with friendship and achievement

Audrey, left, Hannah and colleague Matthew Backes spent a week touring Austria and France after providing pavement management support for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Germany.

International Women in Engineering Day holds a special meaning for two college friends who launched their engineering careers together after graduating together. As close-knit confidantes, they have navigated a six-year path of life and learning that culminated in full-time positions at Hanson a week apart and has led to their shared anticipation of receiving their professional engineer licenses— together, of course.

Audrey Hawkins of Pekin, Illinois, a transportation designer at Hanson’s Chicago regional office, and Hannah Engel of Springfield, Illinois, an aviation civil designer at the company’s Springfield headquarters, met as juniors studying engineering at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. They shared classes and an extracurricular interest in the American Society of Civil Engineers, through which their friendship sparked.

Hannah started with Hanson as an intern with the aviation market in May 2018 and became a full-time employee in June 2020. She chose the company’s headquarters to be close to her significant other and family in the area. Just a week after Hannah’s full-time transition, Audrey joined the company in the infrastructure market, working at the Chicago regional office to pursue her dream of living near that city.

Work and play

As a member of Hanson’s aviation market, Hannah has played a pivotal role in a variety of projects, including

Audrey and Hannah traveled to Germany in late 2022 and early 2023 to assist with pavement condition index inspections.

pavement rehabilitation or reconstruction, new pavement design and construction, T-hangar site development, drainage improvements, airfield lighting layout and general civil site work.

With a background in roadway and traffic projects, Audrey has assisted with projects involving intersection improvements, roadway rehabilitation or reconstruction and traffic signal design in Illinois. She has also helped with utility coordination for numerous Indiana Department of Transportation projects.

Together, Audrey and Hannah traveled to Germany twice, in late 2022 and early 2023, to provide pavement management support for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at Hohenfels Joint Multinational Readiness Center, which is part of the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria. After their final trip, Hannah and Audrey spent a week in Austria and France with Hanson colleague and Geospatial Specialist Matthew Backes before returning home.

“My favorite part of that trip was the ‘Sound of Music’ tour in Salzburg, Germany, and experiencing the Lake Wolfgang lookout point,” Hannah said. For Audrey, celebrating her 25th birthday in Regensburg, Germany, was a major highlight of her time overseas for Hanson.

‘A positive impact on communities’

A love of math, science and problem-solving led Audrey and Hannah to pursue engineering.

“I chose civil engineering over other types because it is the oldest form of engineering and forms the foundation of our civilized society,” Hannah said. “Additionally, civil engineering is broad, which allowed me to decide on a specific focus later in college.”

According to Audrey, “I like how civil engineering has a significant role in maintaining and improving infrastructure that the public relies on daily. Civil engineers can have a positive impact on communities through their designs, and it’s fulfilling to feel that our work is important.”

Better together

Their similar career trajectories have allowed these two friends to validate each other’s feelings during their times of balancing school, work, licensure, project deadlines, mentoring and other scenarios facing young professionals.

“We’ve joked about starting a women-owned engineering firm one day,” Audrey said. “But in reality, my main goal is to continue to learn and refine my technical skills, and Hannah hopes to become an aviation project manager.”

The friends plan to collaborate on future USACE pavement management projects and hope to eventually work together on a large-scale, combined aviation and roadway project. They each feel pride in seeing the other’s progress from student to young professional.

“I deeply respect Audrey for her intelligence, composure and integrity,” Hannah said. “She has consistently been a reliable friend and colleague.”

Audrey added, “Hannah has a passion for everything she does, and she’s always positive. She cares a lot about the people in her life and always puts others first, including clients.”

Hannah Engel can be reached at Audrey Hawkins can be reached at

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