search button
newscenter logo
Friday, July 23, 2021

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Engineering major Tyler Perez, who received the 2019 CSU Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement, speaks with his mentor Brittany Field. Photo: Scott Hargrove for SDSU Engineering major Tyler Perez, who received the 2019 CSU Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement, speaks with his mentor Brittany Field. Photo: Scott Hargrove for SDSU
 


Engineering Student Chosen as CSU Trustees Scholar

Tyler Perez, an Air Force veteran, is the SDSU student to receive the honor this year.
By Padma Nagappan
 

Growing up in the Imperial Valley, Tyler Perez remembers his family living from paycheck to paycheck, while his father worked in construction and served a stint in the U.S Army, and his mother worked in accounting.

His great-grandparents came over from Mexico and settled in the valley in the 1940s, and most of his family still lives there. One of three siblings, he and his brother will be the first to graduate from college in their family. 
 
Interested in seeing the world outside the valley, Perez enlisted in the U.S Air Force after high school, and served a tour in Afghanistan as an airborne cryptologic language analyst. It took him a while to figure out what he wanted to do as a civilian, so he worked odd jobs and attended different community colleges before transferring to San Diego State University. He is a junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, and has leveraged advancement opportunities offered on campus to ramp up for a second career.

This year, he was chosen to receive one of the California State University Trustees Awards for Outstanding Achievement, given to one student from each of the 23 CSU campuses every year. He will receive the Trustee Jack McGrory Scholar award, which comes with a $6,000 scholarship. 

“The award represents security and a major opportunity to complete my schooling,” said Perez, who is using the GI Bill and support from the California Department of Rehabilitation to attend SDSU. 

Perez, who has hearing loss from exposure to jet engines during his service, lives with extended family in Ramona to save on living expenses and commutes to the San Diego campus. 

One of the first things he did at SDSU was to join the MESA program (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) which supports underserved students with outside of classroom experiences, industry and alumni engagements, and undergraduate research opportunities. This opened many doors for him.

It also led to the SDSU ANSWER program (Advancing NAVY STEM Workforce through Education and Research), funded by the Office of Naval Research and open to transfer students and STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) majors who are U.S citizens. It aims to diversify the STEM workforce, boost retention rates of transfer students, and prepares students for internships and research.

He was placed in engineering professor Matthew Verbyla’s Safe Water Lab where he worked in the spring, before securing an internship with defense contractor General Atomics this summer. This fall he will intern with utility company San Diego Gas & Electric, as he explores different areas of specialization in his field. 

Of all the opportunities on campus, the one that played a pivotal role was the Troops to Engineers program, which helps military veterans transition to careers in engineering. Unique to SDSU and funded by Northrop Grumman and Boeing, the program offers custom career support, paid internships and job placement. 

Perez considers program coordinator Brittany Field, who nominated him for the CSU Trustees Scholar award, as one of his most influential mentors. 

“We nominate students who show determination to succeed and Tyler is dedicated and passionate about an engineering career,” Field said. “He is a good communicator and he wants to give back, promote the program to other students, and support other veterans.”

Once he graduates and begins working, Perez hopes to mentor others and show them what worked for him, and how he figured out a game plan.

“This is an honor for our student and for the College of Engineering as a whole,” Dean Eugene Olevsky said. “The Troops to Engineers program is one of our most successful initiatives that helps veterans transition to a second career in engineering, and Tyler’s commitment to the field is laudable."