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February 17, 2021

Laurie Lindborg Parsons: 2020 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient

Written By: Staff

Photo Laurie Lindborg Parsons

Laurie Lindborg Parsons (MSCEE ’87)
Water Resources Division Director, Ramboll US

Laurie is a respected civil and environmental engineer, leader and advocate for clean water who has been a role model for women in STEM.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison?

I was looking to complement my undergraduate science degree with a solid technical graduate degree. After exploring schools on the coasts, I chose UW-Madison for what it offered: great reputation, options in environment and water focused studies, and access to water for recreation.

Why did you choose engineering?

Employed at the time as a planning analyst with the state, I realized a more technical and faster-paced field would suit me better. I settled on engineering as a best fit for my way of thinking and aspirations. Access to the to the university while working was key. It allowed me to explore interesting classes, and get to know the professors through their collaborations with the Department of Natural Resources, my employer at the time. Those connections reinforced my interest in CEE.

Can you share a few of your best memories from your time at UW Madison?

The camaraderie between fellow students in my master’s program and the investment by academic staff in mentoring had lasting impact. The ability to engage in multidisciplinary coursework across programs and without barriers was a positive experience that gave me access to engineering, geology, water resources and agricultural sciences, among others. We also had fun, whether it was the gatherings at the Terrace, the canoe trips, a Hoofers event, or picnics at Professor Monkmeyer’s home. On slow days, there was always the option to head down to the hydraulics lab and simulate canoe races in the flume. I probably shouldn’t advertise that part.

How did your experience in the College of Engineering influence your career path?

I was able to continue my mission of deviating from the standard programs. At the master’s level, I had opportunity to create a path I envisioned, when it didn’t exist at the time. The research I did required input from three professors, in different programs and schools. This commitment between the university and myself to take a slightly different approach to the degree contributed to success in later years.

If you could go back to school today, what discipline would you choose?

My passion for multidisciplinary work in sciences and engineering remains strong. I might not change a thing. Yet, reflecting on my business experience, I could see choosing study in behavioral sciences, with an emphasis on business applications. I found it rewarding to use knowledge and understanding of human behavior to build strong teams and leaders, then put it to use in advancing best practices that drive business growth. Being part of a startup business and growing it successfully is not something engineers might put on their top-10 list. For me it was a journey of discovery, enjoying it along the way, and awareness that our impact on each other makes all the difference in succeeding.

Anyone you’d like to mention?

A solid recognition and thanks to my husband, Dr. Mark Lindborg, for many years of support. He also has had academic ties to the UW School of Veterinary Medicine and has become a Badger. My daughter Analise has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison in environmental science. While she has gone on to study environmental toxicology at Duke, we remain a Badger family.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

If I had stopped learning at any point in my career, I would not be here today in this interview. I happily continue my learning journey.