The ribbon cutting celebrating the completion of the I-35 Waco Project on Nov. 9 had personal significance for Caroline Golden, who’s done some construction of her own as a result of the project. In 2019, when the project began, Golden was a senior at Baylor University in Waco. Thanks to innate talent, opportunity and a Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) internship, she’s launched a career that already seems destined for success.
For Golden, the road that brought her to Baylor University extended around the globe. “My father works for Chevron, and I traveled a lot growing up,” she says. “But Texas seemed like a good place for college since we have family here.”
Waco, she notes, has a strong feeling of community about it. “The people are friendly and definitely helped me feel at home.”
At Baylor University, Golden gravitated toward communications, an affinity she attributes to her international travel growing up. When you move to a new place, you have to learn fast how to talk to new people about the things that matter to them. Golden says those are surprisingly similar, regardless of creed, culture or national origin. “What unites is more common than we sometimes realize,” she says.
Golden was a senior when the I-35 Waco Project broke ground. TTI Research Engineer John Habermann visited one of Golden’s classes looking for a student interested in a public relations internship to help him with outreach to the Waco community on behalf of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) during construction. “Part of TTI’s mission is to provide educational opportunities and real-life experiences to help students become young professionals,” Habermann notes.
Golden’s innate appreciation for bringing differing viewpoints to the table made her an ideal candidate for the internship. After joining Habermann in TTI’s Waco Office, she earned high praise for her amiable attitude and positive professionalism. “Caroline has a natural resolve and graciousness about her that exudes confidence with humility,” Habermann says. “It was a delight to work with her during her internship year.”
Golden notes how her TTI experience crystallized classroom theory by dropping her into the deep end of the pool of real-world experience. She half-jokes that the most challenging part of the job early on was learning all the transportation acronyms that went with it.
“John’s mentorship was instrumental in that too,” she says. “He always encouraged questions and took the time to answer them.”
As Golden’s internship wound down, Habermann reached out to a colleague at CD&P, a public relations and communications firm in Austin, Texas, to see if the company might need someone full-time. (TxDOT’s Waco District hired CD&P to handle its public outreach during the I-35 Waco Project.) Combined with Habermann’s recommendation, Golden’s experience with the project made hiring her a no-brainer. And after her first year with CD&P, Golden quickly earned a promotion.
“Caroline is extremely perceptive and insightful, and brings an exceptional level of professionalism and compassion to her work,” says Jacqie Wilson, her supervisor at CD&P. “She inspires me to be better at what I do professionally and personally.”
Golden gives a lot of credit for her advancement at CD&P to her experience working with TTI.
“My internship was the perfect training ground for what I’m doing now,” Golden says. “John taught me how to translate complex engineering subjects into everyday language for people, to help them understand why construction is happening and how they’ll eventually benefit from it.”
But Golden’s future isn’t solely career focused. Married in June, the next chapter of her personal life is also well underway. When asked to jump forward 50 years and look back on what she’d like her professional legacy to be, Golden takes a moment to consider her response.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of people in my corner my whole life,” she says. “My parents, my community here in Waco, my instructors and friends at Baylor, John and Jacqie… without them, I wouldn’t have had so many opportunities to learn what I wanted to do professionally — and to learn to enjoy it. So, I want to mentor others in the same way — help them find their perfect fit professionally, if I can, as I go along in my own career. I can’t wait to help others like others have helped me.”
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