Leila Galvan '01, '04: A Javelina Engineer Preserving the Planet

by Elaine Barnes

Coordinator, Alumni and Donor Communications


Leila Galvan '01, '04
Distinguished Alumni

"It's not just about the bottom line - it's about future generations. To be a part of a company who honors that is really neat."


For Leila Galvan ’01,’04, becoming a Javelina was practically a family tradition – both her parents, an aunt and several cousins graduated from the university, her father single-handedly earning three degrees. “We really have a lot of pride in [Texas A&M University-Kingsville]. We kind of see it as ‘our’ school,” she highlighted, “I mean, I went there twice, so you know I really liked it!”


However, at first, Galvan’s eyes were set on following in her mother’s footsteps as an educator. “To be honest, I wanted to be a teacher because my mom was a teacher,” she explained, “But when I started going through school, I really began loving math and science a lot and really wanted to do something other than just teaching math and science.” As Galvan explored her passion for these topics, she was fortunate to witness her cousin practice them as an engineering student at the university. Unbeknownst to her cousin, she served as vital inspiration for Galvan, igniting her pursuit of what her heart had become set on – becoming a Javelina Engineer, just like her father and cousin before her.


Galvan insists she felt drawn to the profession largely because she saw engineering as more than a solitary or inaccessible career. She explained further that its purpose is interactive and woven into everyday life for nearly everyone on the planet – even if we might not realize it. “Whenever people say they don’t need math and science, I say to them, ‘Oh it’s very important. Let me tell you why. You see that plastic cup you’re drinking out of? That wouldn’t have happened without math and science!’”


To be a part of something impacting life on a daily basis – all around the globe – gives Galvan an overwhelming sense of reward. A significant portion of that contentment stems from her current company, LyondellBasell, an international plastics, chemicals and refining company. Galvan is specifically based in Victoria, Texas, at a site hosting roughly 95 employees, with one operating unit – an environment which Galvan warmly describes as feeling like family. She explained, “Even though we are pretty small, we are mighty … I actually stopped working for about four years when I had my son. And when I wanted to start working again, I didn’t think anybody would hire me – I hadn’t been working for four years! But they took a huge chance on me, I feel, but they said it wasn’t a chance at all.”


LyondellBasell’s trust in her is evident, as Galvan – the only environmental engineer on site – has undertaken huge responsibility at the company. But she’s loving the challenge. “One of my responsibilities is to make sure that we’re in compliance with environmental regulation. To me, that’s rewarding, because they’re allowing us to run the product – which is a plastic that people use every day. Everyone around the globe uses plastic in one way or another,” she detailed. “Running a plant is a privilege, it’s not a right. So if you don’t have an environmental permit, you’re not running anything,” Galvan detailed.


As an environmental engineer, no one day looks the same. “I wish I could say ‘I do these five things,’ but it changes every day. I’m responsible for all compliance – air, waste and water. I also try to go out into the field a couple times a week just to look around, or if there’s something new, to take a look at it. I work a lot with operators and maintenance staff to understand things exactly,” Galvan revealed.


Aside from the physical tasks, Galvan’s career has challenged her outside of her personal comfort zone. “This is the only site I’ve ever had to stand up in front of people and give trainings on environmental topics, and let me tell you, I was never the type of person to get in front of people,” she admitted. She now embraces the task, and Galvan reflects on the significance of her job’s capability of expanding and teaching her new skills as an engineer.


On top of the personal reward, the global impact that LyondellBasell and its employees have on the Earth is not to be overlooked. “We are one of several companies that are a part of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.” The alliance is intended to commit $1.5 billion over the next five years to minimize plastic waste as well as encourage recycling solutions after product use. “It’s amazing to me that my company doesn’t just want to make a product, but they want to be able to salvage the product and recycle it to be used again. It’s not just about the bottom line – it’s about future generations,” Galvan expressed, “To be a part of a company who honors that is really neat.”


Reflecting on her career’s accomplishments, Galvan confesses her education impacted her in more ways than she realized at the time. She is grateful to have thrived in a field she is passionate about, she feels humbled knowing her work plays a vital role in society and the community family she has become a part of? That is something Galvan truly cherishes. She feels equally grateful to have begun this entire journey at the university that sustained for her a legacy of family.


Galvan concluded, “The best part of attending engineering school in Kingsville were the professors in the departments I was studying in. They truly wanted me to succeed. They knew who I was. They wanted to help me understand. They wanted me to be a good engineer. Without them to help lay that foundation, I think there’s no way I’d have the confidence or be prepared enough to have become the engineer I am today.”


  Victoria, TX
  Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering, Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering 
  Math, Science & Engineering