Construction management alumna honored for impact in her field
Gloria Samuel leads Fifth Third construction management as senior VP
Gloria Samuel entered the construction industry more than 20 years ago as a University of Cincinnati co-op student and never looked back. Since then, she has earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees at UC and has taken great pride in giving back to the college by sharing her education and experiences with others as an adjunct faculty and serving on numerous community boards and committees.
Today, she is the senior vice president and director of construction program and project management for Fifth Third Bank.
The UC Alumni Association and UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science honored Samuel with the Engineering Technology Award of Distinction. The award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions in his or her professional field and has demonstrated a commitment to the mission and vision of the programs in what was formerly the College of Applied Science.
"I was a traditional student in a nontraditional circumstance," Samuel said of her undergraduate experience at the University of Cincinnati.
As a high school senior, she planned on going away to college, as many students do. However, things changed when she got the news that she was going to be a mother.
Needing to stay close to home for her son, she enrolled at UC. Gloria knew she liked to create and build things, but she wasn't certain what she wanted to pursue in her adult life, so she picked architectural engineering as a major. Thanks to her experience in UC's co-op program, she quickly learned that was not the major for her. After a recommendation from a friend, she switched to construction management.
I was a traditional student in a nontraditional circumstance
Gloria Samuel, UC construction management alumna
As a young, single mother, Samuel shared her gratitude for the flexibility afforded to her while she was at the College of Applied Science, which in 2009 merged with the College of Engineering, creating what is now the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
"Being on a smaller campus at the College of Applied Science, I had the ability to bring my son with me if I needed to. It wasn't ideal, but there were certainly times where I sat in the lab and brought my son with me because it was what I needed to do to get through," she said.
In her son's adult life, she jokes that he has been through college a few times already. As a full-time student and full-time mother, Samuel did not have the freedom for extracurriculars that other students did. However, during her senior year, she was able to join the Construction Student Association or CSA.
"CSA allowed me to engage and further my knowledge around construction where I had none," Samuel said. "It allowed me to learn things about construction I hadn't been exposed to since I didn't have family in the industry."
After graduating, she was hired full time at Messer Construction Co., where she spent several co-op rotations, starting as a project engineer and working her way up to project solutions executive.
"I'm grateful for the experience I was able to gain through Messer. They took a chance on me because I didn't have any prior experience in construction. Messer allowed me to learn and experience what I needed to be successful in the industry," Samuel said.
While employed at Messer, Samuel returned to UC for her master's degree in business administration, providing her with a unique perspective on the corporate structure to further advance her career. Shortly after earning her MBA in 2008, she was presented with an opportunity to return to UC to teach as an adjunct faculty member, which she did for eight years.
"I always had an interest in coming back to the department in some way. I didn't know I would come back as an adjunct, but it turned out to be quite rewarding for me," she said. "It allows me to share my experiences with the next industry leader and relate to those who may feel like they're on an island, because they may be an 'only' in their setting."
This is important to Samuel because when she was an undergraduate student here at UC, she was the only Black woman in the construction management program. Mentorship is something she values greatly. Throughout her career, she has worked to share her experiences and be an example to students who have been in similar situations.
Samuel climbed the ranks at Messer Construction for nearly 20 years until she got an opportunity for a new position at Fifth Third Bank, where she leads the team that is responsible for all of the construction efforts across all regions for the company, including retail banking centers and corporate office spaces.
In addition to her position at Fifth Third, she has had significant involvement in several volunteer organizations and community boards. She is a member of the Industry Advisory Board for UC's Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management, where she leads the outreach committee. She is also a board member for Cornerstone Renter's Equity, which provides affordable housing in the Over-the-Rhine community.
Samuel is a trailblazer for women in the construction industry. In recent years, she has been honored as Engineering News Record's Midwest Top Professional Under 40, as well as one of its National Top 40 Under 40 in 2018. In 2022, she was featured in American Builders Quarterly for her commitment to supplier diversity. And in 2023, she received the City of Cincinnati Black is Excellence Award.
She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Jeff Samuel. And she's the proud mother to two boys.
Featured Image at top: Gloria Samuel '04 holds her award with CEAS Dean John Weidner at the CEAS alumni awards dinner. Photo/UC Alumni Assocation.