Turning his Boyhood Dreams into Reality: Meet Diego de Veyga

NCE's Outstanding Civil Engineering Student Diego de Veyga

When he was a boy, growing up in Argentina, Diego de Veyga dreamed of one day studying in America, whose colleges, he believed, were the best in the world. In Argentina, he worked hard to master English, hoping he would  somehow eventually attend a top-ranked America university. 

Diego also knew, since he was 12, that he would major in civil engineering.  He was the kind of boy who loved building and hands-on projects and always asking questions about construction. Civil engineering was thus a natural choice for him.  

After he finished high school in Argentina, Diego got lucky.  His family moved to America and settled in Teaneck, N.J.  Soon, he enrolled in

Bergen Community College.  He majored in Engineering Science and graduated with a near perfect grade-point average. He transferred into the Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT, where he majored in civil engineering.

So his two childhood dreams were now complete: he was in a top-ranked American university, and he was studying the field he loved best: civil engineering.

In this interview, Diego, a senior who was recently named the Newark College of Engineering’s Outstanding Civil Engineering Student, talks about what it is like to have your boyhood dreams became reality.  

What is it about civil engineering that you enjoy so much? 
My father is an architect, but I knew that architecture wasn’t for me.  I like civil engineering because it’s more hands on and you get to work on different things.  Civil engineers get to design almost everything you can think of, from highways and tunnels and bridges, to dams and buildings and waste treatment plants. I have always enjoyed building things with my hands and was always amazed, from a very young age, with structures.  I always wanted to know more about how things worked and why. When I was 12, after I realized I would not be a pro soccer player, I read an article about careers and learned about civil engineers and what they do. I knew then that it was going to be the career for me.

You were born in Argentina, but since you were a boy you studied English and dreamed of studying in America.  Did studying at NJIT live up to your  expectations of American higher education?  
I dreamed of studying in America and worked really hard make to learn English and make that possible. When I left Bergen Community College, I was accepted at many colleges, many with scholarships, but I am very happy I chose NJIT. If I had the opportunity to choose again I would make the same choice -- without a doubt.

How would you describe your civil engineering professors? What affect have they had on you? Two of your professors said you were the best student they encountered in ten years, and that you had an insatiable desire to learn.
My NJIT professors were the best I had in my life and I’ve had a lot of teachers since I attended seven schools.  So that is saying a lot.  I think the goal of the civil engineering professors is to inspire students to think outside the box. They motivated me to the point that I want to work on my master’s degree then my doctorate and one day work as a professor. I could never imagine having better professors than I had at NJIT. 

The construction industry has been decimated by the recession, yet you worked an internship that blossomed into a full time job at Schiavone Constructors and Engineers, in Secaucus.  How’d you get the internship?
I got the internship through the civil engineering department, which every year hosts the Construction Industry Advancement Program (CIAP).  A CIAP recruiter came to the NJIT Career Fair looking to hire interns.  I talked to the recruiter and applied for the program and got an internship at Schiavone.  They asked me to keep working there during the school year, which I’m doing now.  I’m taking night classes.  They also offered me a full time job after I graduate in May.  I think they offered me the job since I have always been eager to learn, ask questions and I respect my colleagues. NJIT not only gave me a great education but also, through the Career Fair and CIAP, helped me get a terrific job.  I’m very grateful for that.   

What is your job title at Schiavone and what kind of projects have you work on? 
My title is Staff Design Engineer. I have worked on projects such as tunnels, ventilation plants, water treatment plants, subway extensions, train stations and shaft rehabilitations. And for those projects I do many things such as design steel structures, work on reinforced and non-reinforced concrete structures. I also work on supports of excavations, deep foundations, wood design, and estimating as well as general construction operations such as determining the right crane to lift something or the fastest and cheapest way to do something. Another benefit of working at Schiavone is that we bid on many projects so we must come up with innovative construction methods and procedures. I am learning a lot, which I know will help me throughout my career. I have also met many NJIT alumni and I can say that the engineering community has great respect for NJIT-trained engineers. 

Along with your honors college scholarship, you managed to amass many others. How many scholarships do you have?
During my years at NJIT, I’ve been awarded 10 scholarships.  I am extremely thankful to NJIT’s financial aid office, which helped not just me but also my parents. During many semesters, thanks to the help from the scholarships, I didn’t have to work.  I could concentrate on my studies, which was immensely helpful.

You first attended Bergen Community College, and then transferred here. Why did you choose NJIT?
I applied and was accepted at many good colleges, but I chose NJIT since I believe it has a top-ranked civil engineering department. It’s also very affordable and it offers a lot of night classes, which has allowed me, this year, to work full time and take evening classes. I’m also in the BS/MS program and through that have already taken three graduate classes towards my master’s degree.  I’ll continue working on my master’s degree, concentrating in structural analysis, after I graduate.

Your ultimate plan is to work as a civil engineer but also to get your doctorate and teach. Is that right?
After I finish my master’s I want to study for a Ph.D. My dream is to design and construct structures that will improve the standard of living of people around the world. I also want to be a university professor. I’ve been lucky to have had many great professors at NJIT, and they are the reason I want to teach and inspired civil engineering students in the way that my professors helped me. That will be my way of giving back. 

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)

Diego's Scholarships are:

  • Turner Scholarship for Civil Engineering award/scholarship
  • American Concrete Institute award for best senior at NJIT in concrete design
  • Robbins-Biano Scholarship for an Honors College Civil Engineering Student at NJIT     
  • Society of American Military Engineers award/scholarship
  • Turner Scholarship for Construction Management award/scholarship
  • Construction Industry Advancement Program Scholarship & Award
  • Construction Roundtable Scholarship
  • NJIT Honors College Scholarship