MPM Students Benefit From Program Director's Experience

Professor Raymond Krizek was recently featured as a "GeoLegend" in Geostrata magazine.

After studying for four years toward a PhD at the University of Maryland, during which time he earned an MS, Raymond Krizek (CEE ’63) encountered a problem with the department head who tried to force him to take a course in structures instead of elasticity, the course he wanted to take.

Instead of fighting over this issue, as well as several others from time to time, Krizek decided to transfer. Since he previously worked with Robert Kondner, who was then a faculty member at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, that’s where he chose to go. It was a good move. He earned his PhD at Northwestern and, despite having options to return east — he grew up in a suburb of Baltimore — he chose to make the place he’d transferred to his full-time home. 

"If you were to undergo a heart operation, I'm quite sure that you wouldn't select your surgeon based on the lowest bid." — Professor Raymond Krizek

Krizek recently reminisced about that decision and how it ultimately shaped the course of his career as part of a special "Lessons Learned from GeoLegends" article in Geostrata magazine.

“Virtually every university was hiring in engineering and science, so I considered a number of opportunities and ended up with six offers, including one from Northwestern,” Dr. Krizek said in the story. “Even though Northwestern offered the lowest salary, it was the best university, so I accepted a three-year appointment. Looking back over the past half a century plus, I obviously made the right choice.”

Nearly 60 years later, Professor Krizek is still advancing the understanding of civil engineering through his work, research, and teaching — all at Northwestern. He was named Civil Engineer of the Year by the Illinois Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1998 and earned membership to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering in 2001, the highest honor bestowed on an engineer. Earlier this year Krizek received an OPAL (Outstanding Projects And Leaders) award from ASCE, a lifetime achievement recognition of his contributions to civil engineering education. 

Among Krizek’s many accomplishments is his role in creating and directing the Master of Project Management (MPM) program, where all the instructors are professionals in the field.

Krizek credits two Northwestern professors for his longevity and success. Jorj Osterberg, a professor in civil engineering from 1943-1985, introduced Krizek to the variety of consulting opportunities within geotechnical engineering and how they can be used as a bridge between classroom theories and real-world problems. Kondner worked with Krizek at Johns Hopkins University and whetted his appetite to pursue the multitude of research challenges in the field, ultimately serving as Krizek’s PhD advisor.

These days, Krizek works closely with MPM students on all types of civil engineering problems.  He looks for certain qualities in students that will be most advantageous to their future success, specifically: 

  • a strong knowledge of fundamentals
  • good motivation
  • an ability to think outside conventional norms.

He also likes students who have a strong work ethic, the ability to recover from setbacks, and can communicate well with others. All of these skills will help engineers and architects optimize their chances for success despite the challenges that lie ahead. 

“One of the biggest challenges facing the engineering profession is to convince clients to value our professional services and not subject them to a low-bid selection process,” Krizek said. “If you were to undergo a heart operation, I’m quite sure that you wouldn’t select your surgeon based on the lowest bid.”

*Geostrata article republished by special agreement with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

McCormick News Article