Bridging the Gap

Civil engineering alumnus Mark Wesley Philips finds successful career with Neel-Schaffer Inc.

UM Civil Engineering alumnus Mark Wesley Philips. UM Photo by Kevin Bain.

UM civil engineering alumnus Mark Wesley Philips. UM Photo by Kevin Bain.

Both figuratively and literally, Wesley Philips is building bridges.

Actually, the registered Engineer Intern at Neel-Schaffer Inc. in Jackson designs them. His role connects him to river and highway overpasses all across Mississippi.

“I was fortunate to receive a job offer from Neel-Schaffer Inc. during my final semester while at Ole Miss,” said the Madison native, who earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering, graduating summa cum laude, in 2011. “Working in our bridge group, I have been given the opportunity to work on many exciting projects. Most recently, I was on our design team for the bridge widening of Old Taylor Road in Oxford.”

The scope of the project includes widening the bridge to accommodate four lanes of traffic and a protected 8-foot sidewalk for pedestrians.

Philips said this project is especially fulfilling work, given his ties to the university and the fact that he lived on Old Taylor Road while attending school.

“I drove over that bridge multiple times a day and always noted how dangerous it was for pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said. “Now I have been given the chance to help make a difference. That’s what I believe civil engineering is all about; making a difference in our community.”

While he spends most of his time doing bridge design work in the office, Philips is actively involved in performing bridge inspections all over the state. These inspections help ensure public safety and infrastructure integrity.

Part of Philips’ decision to come to Ole Miss was his desire to play college football.

“I played on the football team from 2006 to 2010 as a long snapper,” he said. “My father graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in pharmacy.”

Phillips added that what he enjoyed most about Ole Miss engineering was the program’s relatively small size.

“The smaller feel of the program provided for a more personal experience and more one-on-one opportunities with professors.”

While Philips had only great things to say of all of his engineering professors, Chung Rak Song stands out in his memories.

“Dr. Song’s lectures were always well-organized and easy to follow, no matter how difficult the subject material,” Philips said.

The associate professor of civil engineering remembered Philips as being exceptional in every respect.

“He was truly, truly an outstanding student,” Song said. “His mentality was really strong. He was well-prepared for the challenging things that came his way in the classroom. Wesley excelled academically while also playing football, which also consumed a great deal of his time.”

While at Ole Miss, Philips received a Taylor Medal and an Outstanding Senior Award in engineering. He was also a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi honor societies. He and his wife, Christy Cloud, married in Paris-Yates Chapel on campus in 2012.

Philips’ hobbies include woodworking, football, mountain biking and pretty much anything involving heavy power tools.

He is quick to acknowledge that his alma mater was the bridge on which he crossed over from star student to stellar engineer.

“I truly believe Ole Miss engineering provided me with a foundation for success in my current field of work,” Philips said. “It gave me the confidence to face the problems that I have encountered in my professional. I know that I can always return to my core engineering knowledge and rationalize a ligament solution.”