Erika May, '18

Leadership experiences paved the way to a successful career

Terra State was the first time I purposefully challenged and applied myself in an academic setting…I gained confidence in myself and my abilities and is one of the reasons I believe I’ve been successful ever since my time at Terra State

After being told that she wasn’t college bound after graduating high school in 1996, Erika May was still determined to challenge herself to create a future she would be proud of.

May, from Clyde, became interested in working in the construction field, which is historically a male-dominated field, after applying for a four-year operating engineer apprenticeship. As an operating engineer, May learned to operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers and excavators. Her new-found interest in construction lead her to wanting to become a project manager.

She started taking classes towards her degree at Terra State in 2011 but transferred to the University of Toledo to complete her bachelor’s degree, after she ran out of higher-level math courses to take at Terra State.

She received her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at the University of Toledo in 2015 and was recognized as student of the year for the University of Toledo in 2014.

Unlike others, she received her associate's degree after receiving her bachelor’s degree. May graduated from Terra State in 2018 with an Associate of Science.

After speaking at the 2018 Women’s Leadership Forum in the Neeley Center, an academic advisor mentioned to May that the only credit missing to receive her associate's degree was for a speech class. The academic advisor reviewed her participation in WLF and used the experience to count as her last credit, officially completing her degree.

“Terra State was the best choice for me because of the small class sizes and proximity to home. Additionally, as a single mother, Terra State made the most financial sense for my family,” said May.

May currently is a project manager for Hi-Way Paving, a construction company that completes airport, military and highway projects dealing with concrete paving. Previously, she served as estimator and project engineer for The Lathrop Company, where she also completed four co-ops during her undergraduate studies. As a project manager, May works on-site of the current projects she is overseeing. As of January 2021, she is working at the Nashville International Airport, managing the reconstruction of the 2R/20L runway and associated taxiways.

“In my role as project manager, I’m primarily tasked with project coordination between the owner of the project and our company,” said May, “I also oversee turning in pay applications to the owner, tracking quantities, managing subcontractors and vendors, and dealing with any safety or security issues that arise.”

Erika May

During her time at Terra State, May was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, president of the Math Club, a math tutor and Rotary student of the year in 2012. She learned that when she self-focuses and applies her efforts, she could accomplish great feats.

"Terra State was the first time I purposefully challenged and applied myself in an academic setting…I gained confidence in myself and my abilities and is one of the reasons I believe I’ve been successful ever since my time at Terra State,” said May.

May advises students to find a group that they can be themselves with and lean on. Another key to academic success, to May, is to building relationships with professors who can become guidance and mentors in the future. She mentions that she stays in touch with her Terra State mentors to this day.

“Find both peers and mentors who can help you, who can motivate you, and who can celebrate with you and lean on them. Just don’t forget to give back or pay it forward when you can,” said May.

Outside of her career, May has continued to stay heavily involved in her community, including the University of Toledo College of Engineering advisory board, Building Ohio’s Energy Future (BOSEF) community member, a mentor to female students in construction.

She was chosen as a 20 Under 40 recipient in 2017. This prestigious award is a recognition of successful community leaders, who are under 40 years old, in the northwest Ohio area. From 2016 to 2019, May was also a part of the Distinguished Clown Corp, a group of businesspeople in the Toledo area who dress and entertain as clowns to raise money for the holiday parade in Toledo. She was a balloon clown, creating shaped balloons to hand to children at numerous nonprofit events throughout the year.

“Community involvement is very important to me, giving back and paying forward gives me a sense of purpose above my career,” said May, “I enjoy helping people and doing it with respect and without judgement, just as others have done for me.”

Since May works on-site at the Nashville International Airport, she lives in Nashville during the week and travels back home to Ottawa Hills, Ohio on the weekends to be with her family.


Phi Theta Kappa

Erika was an active member of PTK while taking classes