Family affair: Construction Management instructor inherits father’s affinity for engineering

Ellowyn Nadeau, Red River CollegeLike father, like daughter.

Ellowyn Nadeau, an instructor of Red River College’s Construction Management degree program, has engineering in her blood. Her dad, the late Dr. Alexander Thornton-Trump, was a long-time professor in the mechanical engineering department at University of Manitoba.

“My guidance counsellor in high school said ‘Oh, you’re good at math and science. You have to go into engineering.’ So, you know, 17, 18 years old, go with the flow, right?” Nadeau says with a laugh.

“I ended up taking civil engineering versus mechanical because I didn’t want to be taught by my dad. That’s just not right!”

Despite her initial aversion, Nadeau remains well-versed in the family vocation.

After obtaining a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from U of M in 1994, she started her professional engineering career a year later at Wardrop Engineering. Since then, she’s gained a wealth of experience in engineering and construction, having held such titles as preventative maintenance inspector at Winnipeg School Division, assistant manager of purchasing services at U of M, and project director at Stuart Olson.

Nadeau also earned her Supply Chain Management Professional designation in 2010.

“I really like being able to pass on my industry knowledge to the students, giving them a very practical look at what the expectations will be of them once they start working full-time,” says Nadeau, who began teaching at RRC in October 2015.

“I’m giving them tricks of the trade in a lot of cases. I tell them, ‘You know what? I’m passing on information to you that took me five to seven years in the industry to figure out. So you guys are going to get a leg up.’

“I just love that (my students) seem to have a passion for the same industry that I do.”

Nadeau says her passion for construction was cemented while working at Wardrop.

“It was on a project, actually at RRC, that I first got out into the field. I was full-time on site every day, working with the trades and basically following the construction, making sure it was getting done properly,” she recalls.

“I just fell in love with the on-site experience, working with all the different people, learning all their skill sets and understanding why they did things a certain way.”

Nadeau says she thrives on gaining hands-on experience, and she strives to bring that same connection to industry into the classroom with her.

“A connection to industry is encouraged at RRC because that’s so essential, especially in construction where things are changing so fast,” she says.

“If I talk to industry one week, I can make small little adjustments in how I deliver a topic the next week. I can say, ‘I had this meeting last week with general contractors, and this is what we talked about.’”

Nadeau says she cares deeply for the industry and it shows. She’s a member of the Supply Chain Management Association of Manitoba and sits on the board of the Winnipeg Construction Association.

Nadeau is also vice-chair of Manitoba Women in Construction, a member of the Committee for Increasing Participation of Women in Engineering and a member of PEO International, a philanthropic organization that focuses on providing educational opportunities for women.

She’d like to see more women choose engineering and construction as a career, and for them to be seen as equals in their industry.

“I teach a leadership class to my third-year students and we talk about gender leadership and diversity and what women can bring to the table,” Nadeau says.

“I tell them, ‘Right now, you view the women in your class as your classmates. Don’t change. Once you get into industry, they’re project managers and they’re superintendents. They’re not female project managers or female superintendents. They’re just one of you.’

“That’s the way it should be approached. If they can keep that attitude into their careers then we’ll see a change in the industry.”

Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2006)