Barely a thousandth of a point separates Stevens senior Alejandra Guerra from being the valedictorian of the Class of 2012 when she graduates with both a B.E. and M.E. in Civil Engineering at Stevens’ 140th Commencement ceremony.
Guerra finished Stevens’ four-year accelerated program with a near-perfect GPA overall and within her major, despite speaking only a few words of English when she moved to Levittown, N.Y. from Colombia as an 11-year-old. She is the first person in her family to attend college, let alone graduate.
“My parents were really surprised and extremely proud when they found out the possibility that I could be valedictorian, because I’ve had to overcome a lot of different challenges,” Guerra said. “They said they just expected me to do well and that’s it. They said even finishing second is a huge accomplishment.”
Guerra, a math whiz as a child, applied to Stevens at the recommendation of her high school Spanish teacher, whose son is an alumnus. She chose Stevens over the other universities that accepted her because the Admissions team took the time to have a bilingual employee call her family to carefully explain the complexities of financial aid.
“Stevens was the only university to do that,” she said. “It was so helpful to have someone explain how the financial aid package worked.”
Guerra was a member of Stevens’ renowned Cooperative Education (Co-op) program, which provides students with real work experience throughout their undergraduate careers. As she aced her coursework, won academic scholarships, and earned spots in Chi Epsilon, the national civil engineering honor society, and Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, Guerra also interned at two civil engineering firms, Medina Consultants and Thornton Tomasetti.
“Co-op is an amazing program,” she said. “You get great experience and exposure to how your major will apply in industry.”
At Thornton Tomasetti, Guerra worked on structural engineering design and inspection projects at the Empire State Building. She was even taken on site to interact with workers and see the team’s progress.
The experience was what made her decide to focus on structural engineering in her long-term career.
“I got an excellent overview of what would be my future and I loved every minute of it,” Guerra said.
After graduation, Guerra has secured full-time employment as a structural engineer at Burns and Roe, a power and energy company. She will be responsible for designing the structure of power plants.
“I’m most looking forward to learning new things on the job,” Guerra said. “I’m entering a very challenging field, given the strict design rules for power plants set by the government, so I think I’m going to get very good experience.”
Guerra said graduating from Stevens is bittersweet – the University is the site of her best memories, but she is excited to move onto the next chapter of her life.
“We’ve all gone through so much effort, but it’s all paid off because we’ve finally reached the day we’ve all dreamed of,” she said. “I just want my classmates to remember that the Stevens experience and the Stevens community isn’t something that will disappear. It is a special gift that we’ll have for the rest of our lives, and hopefully it will help us pursue our passions and make the most of our futures.”
For more information on Stevens’ 140th Commencement, click here.