Canton Online


Reverse Engineering

Sheila (Griffin) Trasente ’96 used decades of civil engineering experience to land an acting role opposite Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody.

She expertly retrofit the skills she developed in a high-stress field to portray a tough-talking waitress in an upcoming indie drama filmed near her hometown of Syracuse.

“I struck up a conversation with a fellow patron at a local restaurant, and she happened to be working on the movie,” Trasente said. “When she learned about my background, the producers asked me to audition for the part."

She was able to work the filming schedule around her full-time job as a Resident Civil Engineer at an architecture firm, where she oversees construction projects for highways, bridges, utilities, and more.

“I’m out in the field all day keeping track of the materials, equipment, and personnel, while making sure the project meets all state and federal guidelines,” she explained.

It’s too soon to tell if she’ll trade her hard hat for Hollywood, but it wouldn’t be the first time she switched careers. Trasente briefly left the field when her children were young because of the demanding hours—a sacrifice many female civil engineers are forced to make when they become mothers.

Her career began in high school when she worked for her father’s construction company. She watched her older brothers Martin ’87 (a member of the 1986-1987 National Championship Hockey Team) and Patrick ’90 graduate from Canton, so she decided to follow in their footsteps.

“They both studied Construction Engineering Technology, but I wanted to do something different,” she recalled. Civil Engineering Technology seemed to be the best fit, and Trasente appreciated the program’s applied learning focus.

“What I liked about Canton is there was a practicality along with the actual book work,” she said. “We didn’t just solve math equations all day long.”

Her younger brother Sean ’99 also graduated from Canton, and all four siblings went on to have successful careers. When Martin passed away in 2021, she established an annual scholarship in his honor to assist students in a construction- or civil engineering-related program.

She had the opportunity to give advice to current engineering students during an alumni panel discussion. She explained that Canton’s welcoming environment helped her overcome the stress of being the only female student in her program. She quickly gained the confidence to speak up in class and make her voice heard, a skill that she would transfer to her career.

“I told them my story, and how Canton helped me become who I am today.”