UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Growing up in the construction industry, Steve Mezzacappa always loved getting his hands dirty. As a child, one of his greatest joys came from heading to a job site with his father and observing the building process.
Since then, Mezzacappa, a fourth-year architectural engineering student at Penn State, has used this passion for construction to drive and foster his desire to serve others.
“To me, service is when you are giving your time in an applicable hands-on setting. It’s all about physically engaging yourself in something,” he said.
This outlook has recently won Mezzacappa the honor of being named to "The New Face of Civil Engineering" by DiscoverE, an organization that helps to unite, mobilize and support the engineering and technology communities.
The 2016 New Faces of Engineering – College Edition awards are presented to 13 of the nation’s most promising future engineering leaders. According to DiscoverE, the New Face honorees exemplify the vision, innovation and leadership skills that form the foundational elements of a successful engineering career.
Mezzacappa credits his family with instilling him with the values that embody the skills needed to become a successful engineer.
“My mom always told me to dream big and reach high. She would plant the seeds and empower me,” he said.
When it came to choosing a college, dreaming big and reaching high was exactly what Mezzacappa did. He researched and toured close to 15 colleges on both sides of the country, from Cooper Union in New York City to Stanford University in California. His sights narrowed considerably once he visited Penn State.
From the moment Mezzacappa stepped on the University Park campus, he knew Penn State would provide him with the opportunity to engage with and serve others.
“It’s been ingrained in me from a young age how important it is to give to other people more than yourself and to pursue a life full of purpose and impact,” he said. “Penn State is the place to do those things.”
Though always interested in the construction industry, Mezzacappa discovered his enthusiasm for construction management after becoming involved with Engineers Without Borders and Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). Traveling to Panama twice with B2P allowed him to pair this with his true passion — the unification of people.
“I think that’s why I’m obsessed with building things — you cannot successfully work on a project without building relationships with the people you are surrounded by. That’s why I love the service component of construction — it gives me the opportunity to connect with people,” he said.
Humbled by his selection as "The New Face of Civil Engineering," Mezzacappa said the honor is a checkpoint of encouragement on his journey as a builder, as an engineer and simply as someone looking to encourage others.
“As human beings, we have a purpose to give back to others. To be an engineer is one of the best ways to take applicable technical skills and have a tangible impact,” he said. “It hasn’t always been easy, but when someone gives you encouragement and plants the seed that you can do it — look what can happen. I hope this empowers other engineering students — all students — around me to go outside their comfort zones in order to pursue a life full of passion, purpose and impact.”