Barry McNamara  |   Published July 17, 2019

Helping the Midwest Battle Floods

Alumnus Stefan Flynn works as a geotechnical engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help prevent flooding in Midwest communities.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Stefan Flynn ’14 is helping Midwest communities battle the Flood of 2019 and prepare for future ones.

Stefan Flynn ?14, standing at the Marseilles Lock and Dam near Marseilles, Ill., is helping Midwe... Stefan Flynn ’14, standing at the Marseilles Lock and Dam near Marseilles, Ill., is helping Midwest communities combat flooding.The Monmouth College graduate is in his fourth year as a geotechnical engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, headquartered in Rock Island, Ill.

Much of the work he does is down the Mississippi River in Quincy, Ill., not far from his hometown of Carthage. But Flynn, who primarily works on projects related to dam and levee safety, is also part of a team working on a multi-year project in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The $550 million project’s scope includes protecting seven miles of the east and west sides of the Cedar River through downtown.

“Cedar Rapids wasn’t affected by the flooding as much as other areas this year, but they were hit pretty hard back in 2008,” said Flynn. “Cedar Rapids has been waiting a long time for this project. Working with the Corps of Engineers and the City of Cedar Rapids definitely brings a feeling of accomplishment, seeing it all come together.”

Building a sound foundation

Flynn will be involved “from design to construction” with the multiple projects that make up the overall flood risk management project, which is on track to be completed in 2023. One of his main tasks as a lead geotechnical engineer is to “determine the subsurface composition and assess properties as they apply to the overall project design.”

“We need a sound foundation for everything we build,” he said. “We want to make sure the structures are there for decades to come.”

Flynn is also a fan of sound academic foundations, and he couldn’t be happier that his alma mater has added engineering as one of three new STEM majors, along with neuroscience and data science. The “renaissance engineering” program will include areas of concentration in chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering.

“I was very excited to hear about the new programs,” he said. “It’s a very good step forward for the College, and it’s something they can really build on. It’s going to provide an avenue to good jobs and really prepare Monmouth’s students for the STEM careers of the future.”

Monmouth didn’t offer an engineering major when Flynn was a student so he participated in a 3:2 program the College offered with Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

“Monmouth had the mix of athletics and academics that I was looking for,” said Flynn, who started at fullback for the 2011 Fighting Scots football team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.

He said the education he received at Monmouth has set himself up well for professional success.

“Having a liberal arts education has been enormous in my development as an engineer,” he said. “Having the ability to clearly articulate technical concepts in writing has been something that has helped me to advance to where I am today, and that was made possible through the rigorous coursework and critical thinking assignments that were part of my education at Monmouth.”

In particular, he singled out the courses he had with physics professor Chris Fasano.

“Dr. Fasano was always willing to support my non-traditional path towards civil engineering via physics/pre-engineering by being both adaptive and creative with projects and assignments. He gave me the opportunity to apply physical and mathematical concepts in a way that piqued my interest by relating the concepts taught in the physics classroom to the engineering world.”

A problem solver

Flynn said he wanted to pursue his occupational field since before he enrolled at Monmouth.

“My interest goes back as far as high school,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get into engineering, and I had a pretty good idea that it would be civil engineering. For me, it’s the problem-solving. I did well in math and science courses, and doing design work and designing projects always grabbed my attention. Engineering really merges my desire to solve problems with my desire to help others.”

A project that Flynn said he is “most proud of” was the Lock 11 relief well contract in Dubuque, Iowa.

“Problem-solving was paramount,” he said. “We had to install 70 wells that were 35 feet deep or more in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, those weeks were in December and January, which this winter were historically cold. We had to battle the elements while fighting the clock, often working 12 hours per day or more.”

Since earning a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering during his two years at SIU-E, Flynn has received his professional engineering license. He is also pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering online from Mississippi State University, which he hopes to complete by 2021.

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