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UA Little Rock Construction Leader Graduates with Bright Future Ahead

Photo of Jillian Cates by Benjamin Krain.
Photo of Jillian Cates by Benjamin Krain.

A UA Little Rock student leader who has a passion for advocating for women in the construction industry is graduating this semester with a bright future ahead of her.

Jillian Cates, a native of Conway, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in construction management along with a full-time job as a field engineer at Baldwin & Shell Construction Company.

While at UA Little Rock, she’s been dedicated to breaking down barriers in the traditionally male-dominated field of construction, participating in events like a panel with the National Association of Women in Construction and penning her support for Women in Construction Week in an op-ed in the newspaper.

After graduating from Vilonia High School in 2019, Cates first started working in an electrical apprenticeship, but soon received a shock that jolted her to reconsider getting a college education.

“We were working a job, and I got shocked by 277 volts changing a light out, fell down a ladder, and a perspective change happened,” Cates said. “I knew I wanted to work in construction, but I knew I wanted a little more security than I had. I stayed with that company for my apprenticeship doing distribution gas work. One day I picked up a shovel, and I thought that I could be doing so much more with my life. I applied the next week and got accepted to come to UA Little Rock. It was a pretty big life change, and I fell in love with it.”

While at UA Little Rock, Cates has been involved in the student chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), most recently as president, Dean’s Student Leadership Board for the Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and the Industry Advisory Board for the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering. She’s also completed internships at Clinton National Airport and Baldwin & Shell, which has led to a full-time career opportunity.

“After I finished my internship with Baldwin & Shell last August, they kept me on part-time as a field operations co-op,” she said. “I will be a field engineer, and ultimately, I am training to be a superintendent on a job site. I will be learning to coordinate with subcontractors and doing checks on job sites. It’s a very field heavy position.”

Cates said that her biggest accomplishment at UA Little Rock has been the start of a new topping out ceremony to honor graduating students from the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering. The first ceremony honored six students graduating during the fall semester, and the April 30 topping ceremony, which Cates was a part of, ballooned to celebrating 25 graduating students.