Dr. Kevin Rens paves a way for Denver

Photo courtesy of CU Denver News


Photo courtesy of CU Denver News
Chancellor’s urban engaged scholar focuses on infrastructure 

At CU Denver, students have the opportunity to be taught and mentored by a variety of esteemed professors such as TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholars winner Dr. Kevin Rens. 

Factors such as influx of people moving from out of state into Colorado over the last 10 years combined with an endless fluctuating climate have caused a strain on the city and county of Denver’s fragile infrastructure. That is where Dr. Rens comes into play. 

In addition to working as an Associate Professor of structural engineering in the Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning, Dr. Rens also works as a bridge engineer and has played a key role in the maintenance and management of the 650 bridges in the Denver metro area for 25 years. He has also acted as the chair of the civil engineering department for the last ten years. 

 “I work mostly with concrete, steel, and timber, and specialize in designing the mechanisms that hold up vertical construction, such as a building, and horizontal construction, such as roads and bridges,” said Dr. Rens

It is his constant effort to keep the public safe, his ability to provide hands-on learning for his students, and his overall service to the CU Denver community that has earned him the honor of being one of the first ever to receive the TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholars award. 

Dr. Rens first became enthralled with engineering and construction when he was in his early teens working during the summer with his dad who was a contractor. 

“I remember us building things per plans and I remember always asking myself ‘why is a connection this way, why is this welded this way and who says the welding has to be this thick?’ That was the seed for me to get into structural engineering.” 

In the late 80s and early 90s, Dr. Rens’ fascination lead him to enlist in the Army Corps of Engineers, who funded money for him to examine and maintain the dams of the United States. He then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and his master’s and PhD in structural engineering from Iowa State University. Dr. Rens was inspired to move to Denver by his PhD advisor and mentor, who was a graduate of CU Boulder and a big fan of Colorado.

When he first arrived in Denver, Dr. Rens changed the way infrastructure is maintained by implementing and enforcing prioritized maintenance which entails making repairs in the order of the infrastructure that poses the most threat to the public’s safety.  Before, majority of repairs to broken or damaged infrastructure was motivated by complaint-driven maintenance where citizens wrote to the capitol asking for repairs to be made. 

To the students and staff at CU Denver, one of his biggest contributions is his willingness to teach and mentor his students. For those looking to find a more hands-on experience in civil engineering he can be contacted via email at Kevin.Rens@ucdenver.edu. “I’m happy to meet with anybody that wants to.”

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