Luke Smith ’14 opens his renewable energy company for a valuable integrative engineering externship
By Bryan Hay
A generous Lafayette alumnus working in the renewable energy field provided an insider’s look at potential career possibilities to a pair of students majoring integrative engineering.
Luke Smith ’14 (civil engineering), vice president of CI Renewables in Baltimore, recently hosted Olivia Zoretic ’24 and Liam Thompson ’24 for an externship at his company, which develops, owns, and operates commercial and industrial-scale renewable power projects.
“I really loved it, because we got to meet all of the partners and everyone in the whole company during three days shadowing and learning from these renewable energy experts,” says Zoretic, who will be interning at CI Renewables this summer.
“We got to see not only the technical side of it, but also the construction and the governmental and policy side of it,” she says. “Just seeing how they control every aspect of the whole process of a solar energy installation was really interesting for me. We’ve talked about it in classes before, but to see it in action in a region with close ties to Washington, D.C., was invaluable.”
“We were fortunate to get a very grand-scale look at how their company works,” Thompson says. “It’s a very small team, but it’s so agile and a lot more intimate than what you might find at a bigger engineering firm. For me, personally, I can see myself working somewhere like this. I would want to be in an environment like that.”
Thompson says he and Zoretic visited CI Renewables during a particularly busy time, affording them rare opportunities to sit in on planning and lunch meetings with the company’s leadership interacting with customers and policymakers.
“It gave us practical experience to see how our integrated engineering curriculum fits in with the larger picture,” Thompson adds.
The externship came about because of Smith’s ongoing relationship with David Brandes, professor of civil and environmental engineering and Walter A. Scott Chair of Integrative Engineering.
“When he (Brandes) informed me about the newly formed integrative engineering program, my first thought was, I wished this was an option when I was at Lafayette,” Smith says.
Brandes invited Smith to speak about his renewable energy experience during an Environment & Energy course, where he met Zoretic and Thompson.
“Their interest and understanding of the material were demonstrated by great questions during and after my presentation,” Smith recalls. “Olivia and Liam are the best examples of the well-rounded and well-spoken engineers Lafayette helps shape. As a Lafayette alum, I was so happy to have them join us and look to continue to bring on Lafayette students from the integrative engineering program as our company grows.”
Zoretic credits Lafayette’s solid, well-established relationships with its alumni for providing this kind of quality externship opportunity.
“It’s one of the great benefits of going to a smaller school like Lafayette, where students can experience firsthand the growth and development in a quickly expanding industry and see how Lafayette engineers can find a role in it.”