“You need to humble yourself to follow and learn from others before you can become a successful leader.”
The wise words of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville senior Yelana Moton demonstrate her modest and fiercely focused approach to life. The East St. Louis native will achieve a bachelor’s in construction management, with a minor in business administration, from the School of Engineering on Saturday, Dec. 15, with a full-time job already secured.
“A passion for construction is in my blood,” Moton said. “I’ve always had a love for seeing buildings and structures going up. As a little girl, I would hear my grandfather and his brother talk about their demolition business. Hearing their stories validated my decision to pursue construction.”
It was Moton’s seventh grade science project on buttresses that solidified her affinity toward engineering.
“What seventh grader chooses to do a project on buttresses?” she joked. “But, that’s what sparked it. I knew then that my engineering journey would begin.”
Moton hasn’t wavered from her desire for a career in engineering, but it took her a couple tries to find which specialization was for her. She first studied civil engineering, then architecture, before finding her perfect fit in the SIUE School of Engineering’s Department of Construction.
“When I enrolled in my 120 class, I knew this was the route for me,” Moton recalled. “Dr. (Chris) Gordon reeled me in, and it all came together.”
Moton is a natural leader who has been highly active in student organizations throughout her academic journey. She was president of the SIUE Chapter of the American Concrete Institute, a member of the Constructor’s Club and vice president of the service-based organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
“I’ve had many family, friends and mentors to look up to,” she noted. “They know how to follow, but have taken the next step to become leaders. It’s important to have both abilities. It’s a skill to know how to follow. You have to learn from somebody. You can’t just jump out there and assume you’ll be a successful leader from the start. Being a follower first helps develop you into an effective leader.”
The motivated student completed three internships during her SIUE schooling at well-known industry leading companies including The Korte Company, Tarlton Corp. and KAI Design & Build.
“The Department of Construction requires one internship, which I think is wonderful,” she explained. “I pursued three internship opportunities, because those experiences push you to gain the knowledge and skills needed to smoothly transition into the real world.”
“I enjoy the project management route and will seek to gain more wisdom within that path. I have a passion for learning new things, especially about my industry,” she added. “In the future, I see myself being highly involved and active in professional organizations and in the community.”
Moton will reflect on her academic journey and share inspiration for her fellow graduates’ bright futures, when she takes the podium as the student speaker during the 1 p.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15. She plans to encourage her peers to have patience, embrace failure and toughen up.
“My advice is to push for what you want and set high goals,” Moton said. “Make goals that seem right at the realm of impossible. That way, even if you don’t fully accomplish that goal, you will still have broken through barriers and gained a better understanding of your capabilities.”
Photo: East St. Louis native Yelana Moton will earn a bachelor’s in construction management, with a minor in business administration, from the SIUE School of Engineering on Saturday, Dec. 15.