Inspiring Graduate: Ben Olkowski, B.S. Construction

'The people at Stout have been the difference-maker.'
May 24, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Ben Olkowski (’23)

Ben Olkowski will start his career working on solar and renewables projects as a construction coordinator for AZCO Inc., a heavy industrial contractor that works all over the country. He graduated with his B.S. in construction from UW-Stout on May 6, one of 1,173 graduates.

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Inspiring Graduate Ben Olkowski with Chancellor Katherine Frank at commencement / UW-Stout

“Stout has prepared me extremely well to work in my field,” Olkowski said. “Through the construction program, I have gained valuable hands-on experience with building practices, industry software and practical knowledge to help me succeed in my future career.

“Stout’s construction major is a program designed to build excellent graduates that employers all over the country are looking to hire,” he said.

How has your UW-Stout education and experience changed you?

My experience at Stout has changed me in many aspects. I have learned more than I ever anticipated I could and gained some incredible experiences through that learning. On top of that, I have made some great connections with wonderful people that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I am a very different person now compared to when I first set foot on this campus, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

What stands out about your UW-Stout experience?

The people stand out for me. Throughout my time at Stout, I have been surrounded by great people. Whether that be my peers in the classroom, the professors and faculty on campus, or the University Housing staff I have had the pleasure of working with for the past three years.

The people at Stout have been the difference-maker. Because of them, I have so many memories from my time here, and they are the reason I am where I'm at today.

As I finish my time at Stout, I want to say ‘thank you’ to all of the professors, professional staff, housing staff, students and friends that I have made connections with. I could not have gotten to this point without you all.

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Ben Olkowski at commencement / UW-Stout

How did your involvement impact your experience?

I have been a member of Sigma Lambda Chi, the Construction Honors Society, for the past two years. Membership is by invitation only, and you must be in the top 20% of your class to qualify. I am very proud to be a part of this organization, and it motivates me to continue to push myself academically.

I also have three on-campus jobs. I have worked for University Housing, first as a resident adviser and then as a hall manager of HKMC residence hall. Through Housing, I have learned so much about management, relationships and time management.

It has been an experience that I recommend for everyone, especially those looking for leadership experience.

I have worked as a campus tour guide with the Admissions Office and was a student ambassador for the construction program. Through these jobs, I had the opportunity to interact with potential Stout students and answer any questions they may have regarding life at Stout and what they can expect from their experience here. These two positions have also been very beneficial to practice and learn communication skills, and to meet a wide variety of people from varying backgrounds and ideas.

For scholarships, I received the Chancellor's Scholarship for my first two years on campus. This helped me tremendously when it came time to pay my semester bill and certainly allowed me to keep some more money in savings and require fewer loans. Additionally, because working for Housing pays for your room and meal plan, I have saved money. This has been a tremendous benefit and will allow me to graduate college with relatively little debt – something that is becoming more of a rarity these days.

How did you overcome the challenges you faced in earning your degree?

I faced many challenges in earning my degree, including big exams, difficult projects and balancing three on-campus jobs on top of everything. My capstone project really pushed me to my limits. I had to work with my group to complete a construction proposal document. I was able to overcome these challenges through determination and overwhelming support from others.

What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?

I am most proud of the impact and legacy I have had in my time here at Stout. I have made connections with so many people that I’ve lost track. Having the opportunity to leave my mark on areas like University Housing and the construction program has been a wonderful opportunity, and I am honored that I have been able to do so.

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