Jay Avitia considers College of DuPage a strong first step that helped him reach his goal of working as an engineer.
“Since I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect or an engineer and by choosing civil engineering, I’m getting the best of both worlds,” he said. “At some point in my life, I came to realize how respected an engineering degree is and how challenging it is to make it happen, so I decided to take on that challenge.”
In addition to its convenience and location close to home, Avitia chose COD based upon the recommendations of former students and friends from whom he heard great things about the College. He attended through the STEM Student Success program, which helped him build a strong foundation as he pursued his goals.
“The education and knowledge I acquired at COD got me ready for the next step,” he said. “The STEM Student Success program in particular is a great tool that definitely helps in the search for success. I got the chance to attend interesting seminars, meet interesting people and successful alumni in a face-to-face environment, and connect with other students that were walking the same path as me. Also, the program really connected me with my transfer university.”
After completing his studies at COD, Avitia transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. While there, he discovered an affinity for bridge engineering, both design and construction.
Avitia had the opportunity to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and passed on his first try, for which he obtained the Engineering in Training license from the State of Illinois.
“The exam is very tough, but I believe that the study skills developed at COD get you in the zone for the FE exam as you acquire more information after you transfer,” he said.
Having worked as a bridge design engineering intern at Canadian National Railway (CN) in its Bridge Design Department, where he learned about CN design standards and specifications, Avitia started working at CN full time as a management trainee in the Engineering Development Program.
“I have the opportunity to work, train and learn about the railroad industry at different CN terminals throughout the U.S., specifically in the Great Lakes area. I have assisted in track operations supervision, railroad safety inspection and have learned about budget management. Most likely, I will learn more in the field of bridge engineering as time goes on.”
Avitia has returned to UIC to pursue his master’s degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering. As for COD, he advises students who are following his path is to take advantage of all that the College offers.
“Set realistic goals and pursue them,” he said. “Use COD as a knowledge resource and make lifelong friends. Finally, if you are going for STEM fields, get ready to work. Those classes at COD are challenging but they really get you ready for demanding transfer institutions.”