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Denzel Bibbs graduation
February 12, 2024

Spotlight on Badger Alumni: Mechanical Engineer Denzel Bibbs

Written By: Caitlin Scott



During Black History Month 2024, we’re spotlighting Denzel Bibbs (BSME’19). Bibbs is a great example of a UW alum who fully embraced all that Madison has to offer during his time as a student and is now living out the Wisconsin Idea as a Madison-based engineer and serving on the Recent-Grad Council.

Tell us about your time on campus!

Denzel Bibbs
Denzel Bibbs

I came to UW-Madison in 2014, moving my belongings from Northwest Indiana into Sellery Hall. When I came to campus, I knew I wanted to study mechanical engineering. During my first semester on campus, I was part of an engineering First-Year Interest Group (FIG) where I had a cluster of introductory engineering courses with the same classmates. I lived on the Entrepreneurial Learning Community floor in Sellery, now known as StartUp. I also came to campus as a Chancellor’s Scholar and Leaders in Engineering Excellence and Diversity (LEED) Scholar. Through all these programs, I was able to acclimate into campus life very quickly with many friends and connections.

One reason I chose to attend UW-Madison is because of the amazing college sports atmosphere. During my first two years on campus, I had season tickets for football and men’s basketball. I still remember the craziness on campus when the men’s basketball team made it to the NCAA championship during my first year!

Denzel Bibbs at Chazen
Spending time at a favorite spot on campus, The Chazen Art Museum

I had great experiences through campus jobs during my time on campus. I worked for the Physics Department, the Space Science and Engineering Center, and the UW Makerspace. Some of my favorite memories as a Badger engineer were spending time in the Makerspace with 3D printers, machine shop tools, and VR headsets.

I spent a fifth year as an undergraduate student, where I was a House Fellow on the very same floor where I started my first-year at in Sellery Hall. I made great memories mentoring residents and running programs with my colleagues that worked in University Housing. I even got to hunker down in Sellery Hall when classes were cancelled due to a polar vortex!

What can you share with us about your career path?

Denzel Bibbs Findorff
Typical Day on a Findorff Jobsite

During school, I spent a couple of summers at internships. My first internship was through the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I spent a summer at a food manufacturing plant, where I supported project engineers onsite in analyzing utility systems for energy efficiency, water conservation, and wastewater treatment improvements. During another summer, I interned on campus at the Space Science and Engineering Center. That summer I worked with engineers and researchers on ice coring drill systems that were being sent to Antarctica for National Science Foundation funded research.

Upon graduation from UW-Madison, I moved to the Chicagoland area where I worked for Navistar as a Product Development Engineer. I had the opportunity to work on drivetrain components for next-generation commercial vehicles, some of which were electric powered. I then returned to Madison to join Findorff, a Madison-based construction firm where I work today.

What are some of the experiences throughout your career that have been most interesting to you? What are you most proud of so far?

One of the great things about being an engineer is seeing the impact of my work wherever I go. I still see commercial trucks on the road that I spent time on in product development at Navistar. Today, I am most proud of being part of a company that builds in Madison. I enjoy being a part of construction projects in the Madison community, and seeing the many projects Findorff has been a part of in the past. I continue to learn and grow as an engineer in construction management, and I am looking forward to the exciting development projects around Madison as this city continues to grow.

Please discuss how UW shaped you into the person and engineer you are today.

Denzel Bibbs Recent Grad Weekend
With the WAA Recent Grad Council at Recent Grad Weekend

The courses, professors, and experiences I have had at UW-Madison certainly helped shape me into the person and engineer I am today. Right after graduation, I felt prepared to step into the automotive industry and use the problem-solving skills I developed in school. I also believe as a UW-Madison mechanical engineer alum, I was set up for success to make an industry transition. I had a great experience going from the automotive world to construction management. The drafting, CAD, and manufacturing courses (just to name a few) gave me a great technical background to be a quick learner in construction.

One of my guiding principles today is the Wisconsin Idea. I believe that every UW-Madison alum should use their skills and potential to positively impact other people. If it were not for the opportunity to attend UW-Madison through the Mercile J. Lee Scholars Program, I probably would not be living in Madison today. I put my best effort in giving back to the University by remaining connected and spending time with the alumni community. I currently serve on the Wisconsin Alumni Association Recent-Grad Council, where we help recent graduates keep a strong and positive connection to UW-Madison through resources and programs.

What can you share with us about your experiences as a Black person on the UW-Madison campus?

Denzel Bibbs speaking
Speaking at a Leaders in Engineering Excellence and Diversity Graduation Event

My identity as part of an underrepresented group as a Black person quickly became apparent when I first arrived on campus, when I was frequently one of the few, if not the only Black person in many engineering classes. I also started school around a time where there were deep conversations on race relations across the nation and on campus. I had many conversations with UW-Madison friends, classmates, and dormmates about the state of race relations within education, law enforcement, and government.

During challenging times, I relied on a great support system on campus through fellow Chancellor’s Scholars, LEED Scholars, and the Wisconsin Black Engineering Student Society. I had a community where I could share experiences amongst fellow Black students, as well as offer my support. I also found community at the Multicultural Student Center in the Red Gym, where there was space to study, mingle, and reflect with other students of color on campus. I hope that my experience finding and helping build a great student-based support system as a Black UW-Madison engineer will positively impact Black Wisconsin students in the future.

The Black History Month 2024 theme, Legacy X, commemorates 10 years of the campuswide celebration of Black History Month at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Learn more about the month’s events here.

Featured image: Graduation Day 2014 at ME Building
All photos provided by Denzel Bibbs