A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Beth Thornton, P.E., has never allowed a challenge to stop her from pursuing her dreams. While some life changes were “by choice, sometimes by force,” Thornton is a triple-threat engineer and soon-to-be J.D./M.B.A. graduate.
“Having worked in the engineering industry for 25 years, I have learned that managing risk and understanding the financial challenges of project and business management, I felt drawn to obtain a dual degree that would be beneficial in managing projects and the business of engineering, and also to gain a better understanding of the legal challenges and protections of being a leader in a growing engineering firm,” said Thornton. “Capital’s J.D./M.B.A. program provided an opportunity to obtain both degrees in about five-and-a-half years while maintaining my role within my current company.”
When Thornton earned her undergraduate degree, she wanted to pursue an advanced degree, but the opportunity wasn’t there. Years later when her children left for college, she had “time to invest in myself again.”
“I did my M.B.A. for a year and then applied to law school. I didn’t get in and that’s ok; I applied. My LSAT score wasn’t great. It had been 25 years since I’d taken a standardized test. So, I finished my second year of my M.B.A. and applied to law school again, actually got in, and received a scholarship,” said Thornton. “My whole goal is to marry my engineering career with my legal education. We’re still working on what my spot will look like. It will be different from what I expected, and I’m ok with that.”
Being established in her engineering career has taken time and it’s something that Thornton is proud of.
“I’m a licensed engineer and I earned that. It took a lot and I feel like it needs to be protected. There’s a reason we have to be licensed. We protect society through that licensure. You don’t want a non-licensed person designing a bridge or a building,” said Thornton.
No matter where she was in her engineering career, Thornton was always there for her family and community.
“While working in Virginia, I closed my company and went to work in a public agency. It just didn’t feel like the right fit. There were some anchors pulling me back home. As a family, we decided we needed to slow things down, and so I decided it was in the best interest of my family to step away from my professional career and be more focused on the family,” said Thornton.
“In order to also have ‘play money,’ as I called it, I worked as a substitute teacher. I taught anything from pre-K to eighth grade. The eighth grade had a career exploration program and one of the options was engineering-related. The engineering teacher was going to be out for about six weeks. I stepped into that position and the principal of the school actually started sitting in on my class because he was so excited about what I was teaching.”
Thornton’s career trajectory didn’t always look bright. It was through hard work and mentors along the way, that allowed Thornton to shine in an industry that didn’t always include people that looked like her.
“I grew up in rural, economically challenged West Virginia and getting a college degree was a big deal. I know that getting an engineering degree changed the trajectory in my life in unmeasurable ways,” said Thornton. “I had somebody who said, ‘You know, you could be an engineer. You’re good at math. You can do these things‘.”
Creating a pathway for students to see themselves in professional careers, such as engineering, is a passion of Thornton’s that continues to evolve.
“Civil engineers are the foundation of society. We provide transportation, we provide buildings, we provide clean water. In order to meet society’s needs, we have to have a workforce that is made up of all our members of society. That hasn’t always been the case,” said Thornton. “Making sure that we have representation in our industry has been important to me.”
Thornton is an engineer, a student, a teacher, a mentor, a mother, a wife, and yet she’s always ready to embrace the next thing in life.
“I’m not just one thing, I’ll never be just one thing. I’ll probably have to add more things to that because we grow and change,” said Thornton. “That’s just what life is about.”
To learn more about Capital’s M.B.A. program, visit https://www.capital.edu/mba/.
To learn more about Capital’s Law School, visit http://law.capital.edu/JD-MBA/.