Alum engineers multistate success with Whiting-Turner

May 23, 2024
Chris Dowdy

Chris Dowdy ’18 is a project manager at Whiting-Turner Contracting Company in Nashville, Tennessee. The member of Florida Polytechnic University’s inaugural class of four-year students works on a project at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

In the six years since Chris Dowdy ’18 earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering as a member of Florida Polytechnic University’s inaugural class, he has built a solid career as a project manager at Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, a nationwide construction management, design-build, and integrated project delivery firm.

Before joining the company’s Nashville, Tennessee, office two years ago, he was at its Sacramento office for four years. He is currently managing a critical project at Nashville International Airport.

“Right now, I’m focused on scheduling and building out temporary walls for security. There are constraints because we’re working in a facility that never shuts down,” Dowdy said. “We’re doing the construction work at night, but I need to interface with people during the day, so it’s a unique challenge.”

The role demands a keen eye for detail and the ability to foresee potential issues.

“Yesterday, it was all about cost controls and ensuring we understand future expenses,” he said. “My job is to be clairvoyant about the project, think about it as a unit, and marshal the resources to get us where we need to go.”

Now 40, he was already well into his career and family life when he decided to pursue an engineering degree. Dowdy had worked for the Florida Legislature and earned a pastoral theology degree years earlier.

“I was trying to figure out what was next when this university just pops up literally 10 minutes from my house,” he said. 

The decision to attend Florida Poly as a nontraditional student was life-changing both personally and professionally, said Dowdy, who has a wife and four children. 

“I was a late-in-the game student starting Florida Poly when I was 35 – I was like 15 years older than a lot of my classmates and a little self-conscious,” he said. “They were setting up the University and talking about incentivizing the initial class with full-ride tuition, and I’m thinking, ‘This is too good an opportunity to pass up.’”

Dowdy dedicated himself to his studies, became a founding member of the Presidential Ambassadors program, and took advantage of the connections and additional opportunities that arose. These opportunities included meeting with a leader at Whiting-Turner from Tampa, Florida. 

He also worked hard to maintain his regular family time at home and work responsibilities at his existing position with the Florida Legislature.

“My advice to other students is if you’re going back later in life, it’s important to count the cost and understand what you’re about to go through and put the people in your life through,” Dowdy said. “I didn’t want to impact my family from the craziness in my life. I didn’t want to be the guy whose kids said, ‘Those were the four years when Dad sat at the computer.’

“More generally, I just had to enjoy the moment and be in the moment. I had to fight and be where I was – when I was at home I was at home. When I was in class, I was going to be focused on fluid dynamics.”

That diligence and thoughtfulness helped him be successful both academically and personally, he said.

“Florida Poly was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Dowdy said. “I loved my time there. It was exactly what I needed and it paid off so much afterward.”


Lydia Guzmán
Director of Communications