(Florida Institute of Technology)
The Coastal Engineer | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
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GET TO KNOW MAURA
Loyal, dedicated and adventurous — that’s Maura Boswell! After working as a project manager and project engineer on several different coastal projects over the years, she decided to go back to school to earn a Ph.D. Keep scrolling to learn more about Maura’s journey and career accomplishments.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
My family has spent summers at the beach in Delaware since before I was born, so I’ve had a love of the beach and waves since before I can remember. When I was approximately seven years old, there was a beach nourishment project on our beach. I watched the sand being pumped out of the dredge pipes and thought it was the most fascinating thing that you could “make” a beach. I loved running around in the hot sand and diving in the waves all day long, so I decided that I was going to make beaches when I grew up so that everyone could continue to go to the beach and have as much fun as I was having as a child.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
Learning how to say no. As women, especially sorority women that want to have a positive impact on the community, we often say yes to everything someone asks us to do. I learned that I really needed to prioritize myself and honestly assess what I could successfully accomplish and sometimes turn down an opportunity that at another point in my life would have been great, but at the current point is not going to add to my happiness.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
My dad was an engineer, so as I grew up and started to look at how to accomplish my dream of making beaches, we found coastal engineering. He always encouraged me to work hard and commiserated with me over some of the more difficult engineering and math classes.
What do you love most about your job?
The coastal zone is such a dynamic environment that watching changes occur on the shoreline and seeing the beauty and power of nature is fascinating. Learning how to work with nature to engineer projects and solutions is a fun mix of art and science.
Stripes or Polka Dots
Mountains or Beach
Cats or Dogs
Left Brain or Right Brain
Physical Book or Audio Book
Describe yourself in three words.
Loyal, dedicated and adventurous.
Your life philosophy is…
Life’s a journey, not a destination (thanks, Aerosmith).
What is the best piece of advice you received?
Never give up.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
Thailand. It’s been on my bucket list for dive destinations and I’ve heard the country is beautiful and I love the cuisine.
What’s something you cannot live without?
Water in all forms. Whether it’s watching waves, SCUBA diving, snow skiing or plain old hydration.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“Chesapeake” by James Michener. I read this book at the beach the summer I was 10 and loved the storytelling manner in which he describes the development of the bay over the course of generations. I applied to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation summer camp the next year and continued to foster a love of learning about and experiencing the coastal environment.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I have no clue what else I would do; I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was seven and I love my work and sense of purpose.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
I used to unwind with a glass of wine with friends, but after having my son, playing or reading books with him and watching the world with the fresh perspective of his eyes, with everything being so new and fascinating, is an amazing way to take a breather and focus on the minutiae.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
To know that what I love to do provides the next generation with the ability to have wonderful childhood memories and a love of the beach.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“Never give up.” It’s applicable to so many aspects of life: education, career, health and fitness or just the general pursuit of happiness.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Slowing down. I’m a Type A, driven person, so I was very “work hard, play hard” for decades, keeping the two almost separate with 14+ hour workdays and fun vacations when I had the opportunity. Since I decided to stop working and pursue my doctoral degree full time instead of part time while working full-time and raising a family, I’ve learned how to have a work-life balance each day instead of just on vacation or weekends. I work on my research part of the day and spend time with my family part of the day. I took up yoga to add balance to my cardio and weight routine. When I’m sick, I now stay in bed and take a sick day rather than push through. I’ve switched my mindset from just accomplishing my goals as quickly as possible to remembering to enjoy the journey along the way, even if it takes a little longer.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
If I’m near a beach, I go to the beach and watch the waves. If not, I work out — running, swimming, weights or yoga all help me boost endorphins, relax and refocus my energy.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
Gamma Phi Beta! Seriously. The friendships and support I have received from sisters at my collegiate chapter as well as the alumnae chapters I’ve joined have been invaluable. I periodically get together with sisters from my collegiate chapter to have a girl’s weekend in different locations and some of my dearest friends are ones that I made after college through the local alumnae chapters I’ve joined as I’ve moved around for my career. I initially joined the sorority my freshman year because I was informed it was a good way to take on leadership positions that would look good on my resume, but it really has become a lifelong commitment and provided me so much more than I ever could have imagined through the friendships, support system and networking.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
Sylvia Earle. She’s done such groundbreaking work in ocean exploration and broken countless glass ceilings along the way.