Extraordinary Engineer: Paola Valdivia

Paola Valdivia

Paola Valdivia

Inglewood, California

High School
Whitewater High School

Civil Engineering

Expected Graduation
December 2022

What is your favorite thing about being a student at UGA?

“My favorite thing about being a student at UGA is the environment that they provide for their students. It is an environment in which I feel nurtured and supported to continue my studies.”


Capstone team group photo near water

A civil engineering major, Paola (second from left) is part of a Capstone Design team that’s exploring options for replacing aging housing for housing for researchers at the UGA Marine Institute’s research center on Sapelo Island.


Why did you choose to study engineering?

“When I visited my parents’ home country for the first time, my initial observation was the lack of proper infrastructure and lack of feasibility for most of the locals to receive something as simple as clean water. This experience immediately made me realize that I wanted to become someone to find feasible solutions for these locals. I soon found that civil engineering was the career that would help me accomplish this goal.”

What has been the greatest challenge you have faced while at UGA, and how did you overcome it?

“One of my greatest challenges that I have faced during my time at UGA would be the transitioning to higher education. As a first generation college student it was difficult enough to feel comfortable with the opportunity to be here. One way I overcame this challenge was by finding a niche of people who are also experiencing it; this is where I became involved with 1st Gen Dawgs.”

What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference for you?

“I have learned through my time at UGA that building relationships is essential. Being as genuine in conversation and getting to know others outside of school and on a more personal level can go a long way.”


She Builds team photo

A first-generation college student, Paola (middle row, far right) volunteers with She Builds, a collaboration between neighbors and partners who are dedicated to advancing housing and community issues affecting women.


What or who has helped you become a successful student here at UGA?

“Every professor I have had at UGA has been part of my growth as a student. Both professors and peers I surround myself with have never failed to make me feel supported and have contributed to my success as a student at UGA.”

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

“My favorite spot on campus would be the Intramural Fields; I enjoy walking the trails and simply admiring the view on a nice sunny day.”

What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?

“My favorite restaurant in Athens is Los Plebes. Their tacos and sopes make me feel at home.”

What has been your favorite class at UGA?

“My favorite class at UGA so far has been the Structural Lab with Dr.Chorzepa. I really enjoyed how hands-on the class was.”

What has been your best memory at UGA so far?

“My best memory at UGA so far has been when my family came to Athens to attend the Hispanic Student Association Noche Latina event. It was a great night of representation that I was able to share with the people I am closest to.”

What advice do you have for younger students who wish to pursue engineering?

“As advice to younger students who wish to pursue engineering, I would say to not feel intimidated as scary as the class may sound. Like with everything else, expertise comes with practice, so don’t be too hard on yourself.”

How do you hope to impact society with your engineering degree?

“With my engineering degree, I hope to accomplish my goal that first inspired me to become an engineer in the first place. I hope to become a part of finding feasible and equitable engineering solutions for those who may not have the same resources that we do.”

► Read more Extraordinary Engineers profiles

Join a cutting-edge engineering program at a time-honored university

Apply Today Make A Gift