July 03, 2014 8:30AM
As a young woman trying to make her way in the male-dominated field of construction, Jenny McCool O’Dell found herself searching for a female role model.
“When I graduated from Pittsburg State and went into the industry, I was surrounded by men,” she said. “I longed for a female role model that I could relate to and gain knowledge from, someone to mentor me. I thought if I had that female influence, it would somehow help me on my journey to success.”
Now an instructor in the Pitt State School of Construction, McCool O’Dell finds herself on the other side of that equation.
“It wasn't until I became an instructor at Pitt State that I realized I could do something to help the future women in construction,” she said. “I now help students gain confidence, knowledge, leadership skills, networking skills and other skills that would give them the springboard they need to not only survive, but flourish into young construction professionals.”
Her work has not gone unnoticed.
McCool O’Dell was recently named the 2014 Future Leader of the Year by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). She will be recognized for this award in September during NAWIC’s national conference in Indianapolis.
“It is such an honor to receive the NAWIC 2014 Future Leader of the Year Award because it is given by my peers,” McCool O’Dell said. “I am surrounded with NAWIC women who have committed to enhancing the success of women in the construction industry. Many of these women have played a crucial role in my success and I am proud to call them my sisters.
“Many of the NAWIC members have mentored me, have set examples for me to follow and have helped me learn to be a leader,” she said. “I am truly honored to represent NAWIC as the 2014 Future Leader of the Year.”
According to NAWIC, the Future Leader of the Year Award goes to a NAWIC leader who has been actively involved in the group during her first two years. And McCool O’Dell has definitely been active.
She is the adviser to the student Women in Construction group, and she recently helped with the creation of the Southeast Kansas chapter of NAWIC. She is also the executive director of Hearts and Hammers.
“My job allows me to do many things that others can't do, and I am truly blessed to do the things that I love,” she said. “The things that I do would not be possible without the support of Pittsburg State University and my students.”