KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 14, 2023
Over her first two decades of life, Maria Gonzalez has dealt with some major changes, the most significant being a 1,400-mile move with her family from Central America to northwest Georgia, where she learned English and adapted to a new culture.
And, on Dec. 14, the Kennesaw State University senior will proudly wear a cap and gown to be presented with the bachelor’s degree in civil engineering she earned from the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.
Gonzalez said her parents are proud she will be the first one in her extended family to graduate from college. Plus, they are in awe of her journey from a 9-year-old little girl in a new country, to the woman she is today graduating from college with honors. She has a career in civil engineering waiting for her, taking a full-time position in a local engineering firm.
“It’s sometimes hard to comprehend all of that,” Gonzalez said. “Not a lot of us have this opportunity, but it’s a big accomplishment and I’m really happy and proud of where I am right now.”
Originally from Guatemala, Gonzalez and her family moved to the United States when she was in elementary school. But she not only had to adjust to life in Rome, Georgia, she had to spend nearly two years learning English. After graduating from high school in 2017, Gonzalez took a year off from schooling to figure out her next move.
“I needed to wait a year to figure out what I wanted to do,” Gonzalez said. “I realized I wanted to go to school. At the time, Georgia Highlands College was my best option and a path to transition to Kennesaw State.”
She realized early on that she loved math and knew she wanted to apply that passion into a career path.
“I know it may sound crazy, but numbers can be pretty abstract,” Gonzalez said. “For me though, for some reason, they make sense. So, I love that.”
Starting at Kennesaw State in 2021, a huge factor in her decision to pursue civil engineering was her dad, who Gonzalez said had wanted to be an engineer.
“Certain circumstances stopped him,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to continue what he wanted to do, and I chose civil engineering. He was excited for me.”
In her time at Kennesaw State, Gonzalez has been heavily involved in the Society of Hispanic Engineers. As for being a female heading into a male dominated field, the quiet but fierce student said she is ready.
“One of the things I realized when I started in engineering was that I was often the only woman in the room,” Gonzalez said. “But I refused to let that stop me from succeeding. I just knew I would need to work a little harder and prove myself more.”
– By Amanda Cook
Photos by Matthew Yung
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.