Pioneer Arielle Scalioni builds a career in civil engineering

Arielle Scalioni’s journey to a bachelor’s degree began in an Amazon rainforest, helping build a church that doubles as a medical clinic.

“I spent a month there after high school. It really helped me see the effect you could have by helping to build all this infrastructure for the communities,” said Ms. Scalioni, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering as part of the opening ceremonies of the ‘University of Tennessee at Chattanooga at McKenzie Arena.

“It helped me choose civil engineering as my major.”

But that’s not the “shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line” story.

Ms. Scalioni’s journey is strewn with pitfalls.

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ms. Scalioni and her family emigrated to the United States when she was four years old. His parents, Carlos and Arlete, moved around a lot in search of better opportunities for the family, finally arriving in Harrison about eight years ago.

Ms. Scalioni spent most of her formative years in Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, but her mother suggested she get an experience outside the country.

“I’m a third culture kid,” she explained. “It’s part of our blood. We have always liked to move and discover new places.

“Having moved from Brazil to the United States, I returned there to study in a boarding school for high school. I then decided to take a break because I was not sure what I wanted to study at university.

It wasn’t a break in any real sense, though. Ms. Scalioni enrolled at the Wildwood (Georgia) College of Health and Evangelism, now known as the Wildwood Center for Health Evangelism, a health-focused mission school.

Ms. Scalioni soon found herself returning to Brazil on a mission trip to the Amazon rainforest, working with an organization called Salva-Vidas Amazônia, which is part of the Missões Noroeste ministry in Brazil.

Participating in the construction of the church created a moment of inspiration.

“The villages there are very disconnected and you have to travel by river to each village,” she said, “and we were there to build a church. The church is not just a place where people can go to worship. It’s where they could meet for community events, and whenever people go there for traveling medical clinics, it’s a place that could be their hub.

“When I saw how excited people were to see this church being built and how it would bring them great joy in the future, I realized that I could do it on a larger scale if I got a engineering degree.”

Seeing a female presence in civil engineering “excited me”

“Ever since I was very young, I loved taking things apart and seeing how they worked,” Ms. Scalioni said, “and in engineering you have to have a foundation in STEM, which is math, physics and science.

“I get a lot of that from my dad. Even though he didn’t get a college degree, he was always an entrepreneur and he taught me to be curious and to have this curiosity about how things work and how things fit together.

When Ms. Scalioni returned to the area, she heard about the engineering partnership between Chattanooga State Community College and UTC. After taking care of her prerequisites, she transferred to the University.

She first started with an electrical engineering track “because I thought it might be a place where, as a woman, I might be more accepted,” she said. “A lot of people, when they think of civil engineering, think primarily of construction and the fact that you’re in the field.”

Although she didn’t immediately envision herself as a civil engineer, she quickly discovered that a career could be an option.

“When I started taking more focused courses with female engineering professors, I realized it was much broader than I thought,” she said. “This female presence, especially in civil engineering, excited me.”

She also landed an electrical engineering internship at Black & Veatch, a global engineering firm with more than 65 locations in the United States, including Chattanooga. Despite being an electrical engineering intern, Black & Veatch gave Ms. Scalioni the chance to follow civil engineers.

“That’s when I saw that civil engineering was more the field for me,” Ms. Scalioni said. “It brought me back to the thoughts I had in the Amazon when I was helping build this church for the community.”

Tracing flamboyant tracks for Latin female engineers is also a “responsibility”


Moving from electrical to civil engineering meant more time in school, and Ms. Scalioni’s total time between Chattanooga State and UTC is six years.

But she said the extra time was worth it: a full-time position at Black & Veatch awaits after graduation.

“I’m so excited to graduate with a major that’s best for me,” she said. “It brought me a lot of joy. It brought me a lot of happiness. »

When Scalioni walked across the McKenzie Arena stage, she received this diploma on behalf of her entire family.

“I’m a first-generation student, so college and furthering my education has always been a goal for me and my family,” she said. “My parents worked hard to give us a better life here. It is very important to have an education, to be able to find a job and to give back to them what they gave to me.

Her mother recently told her: “It’s like she’s getting her degree,” Ms Scalioni said. “Every success I have, she takes it as her own.

“I think that’s so true because I can only be here and study because of the support they were able to give me through college.”

She became something of a pioneer in her own family. His sister, Tabata, is now studying computer science at UTC.

Ms. Scalioni also wants to be a role model for Latin female engineers.

“We’re seeing a lot more women in engineering, especially in civilian life, than before,” she said, “so I see it’s getting better, but people who aren’t Americans, who were not born here, who are from different ethnicities, I see that I can help inspire a lot of young women, especially those who are not exposed to STEM fields.

“I hope I could help other young girls to see that this is an option. I also see this as a responsibility.