Board Member Spotlight 2015 Jul-Aug

As part of our new 2015 Board member appreciation program we are showcasing a board member in our bimonthly Board Member Spotlight.  Our board member spotlight recognizes board members of outstanding contributions to the profession and our local communities. For any questions regarding the program please contact the Past President at

For the July and August spotlight we would like to introduce...

Rafael Contreras, P.E.

Rafael Contreras is a Project Engineer for the City of Vernon, California. Rafael currently serves as our Community Service Co-Chair . In 2015 he was awarded the Orange County Engineering Council Young Engineer Award.

Below are a few questions we asked him:



Where did you grow up?

 I grew up in Fullerton, California, but I am originally from Celaya, Guanajuato in Mexico. 

What made you want to become an engineer?

When I was younger I have always loved math and physics, and was fascinated by how the world could be explained by mathematical formulas. Engineering is the culmination of using both math and physics to better our way of life. I chose civil engineering because it was my way of improving my neighborhoods and cities.

If you had to choose a different career what would it be?

I would have been teacher. Actually, I’ll become a teacher after I retire. I have a passion for helping others, which in this case would be through helping students learn and find their passion.      

What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?

Santa Ana College, AA Liberal Arts

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, BS Civil Engineering

      ASCE Member

      Chi Epsilon Member

      MESA Scholarship

Work & Professional Life

Primary role, Significant Projects?

Working for a small city provides me with the opportunities to be exposed to a wide variety of public works projects. Although the size of the projects in some cases may be small in scale, I enjoy the fact that I am exposed to various aspects and phases of infrastructure projects such as streets, bridges, traffic signals, storm drains, sewers that lie within the City’s right-of-way as well as improvements involving public buildings. 

Non-Project work responsibilities?

For private development projects, I review grading plans, covenant & agreements, analyze impacts that private developments might have on the public right-of-way, and prepare frontage improvement plans. I also act as a Public Works liaison to the public at the engineering counter or by telephone.  

What is your favorite part about being a Civil Engineer?

As an engineer, I am presented with challenges and problems that test my analytical skills. I enjoy the problem solving process that affords me the opportunity to learn and explore the best possible solution. 

What skills do you find most valuable to focus on in your career?

Engineers tend to be very technical, I found that it’s very critical to be able to communicate technical ideas to other in a very clear and concise manner.  

Describe a situation that was a great learning experience for you?

I have learned that it is vital to always obtain important information in writing.   



How/Why did you get involved? Why did you choose to stay?

During college, I worked to help support myself so I as a student I wasn’t as actively involved as I would have liked to be.  It was after college that I became actively involved. I started as a University Liaison for the YMF because a close friend invited me to join. I stayed because I enjoyed reaching out to help students and I developed good friendships with other YMF members.  

How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement? 

I have been able to network with other engineers 

What has been your favorite ASCE event since you got involved?

Through ASCE, I was able to volunteer in Corazon’s “Build a House in a Day” Construction Program. In this program, a group of volunteers travel to the Mexican communities of Tijuana and Tecate to build a home in a day for a deserving family. Volunteering for this non-profit organization has come a second passion of mine.  

Personal Life

Favorite Sport?

Growing up it was definitely soccer, but I’ve grown to like all sports.

Hobbies and Interests outside of Engineering

As I previously mention, I enjoy volunteering for K-12 and community service events as a way for me to pay back for all the help I received from others along my way through school.


If you missed the last Board Member Spotlight, Andrew Easterling, you can click here to read his article.

To view the archive of all past Member Spotlights click here.

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