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Alumni Spotlight: Jonathan Diaz


Jonathan Diaz is a Montclare native, and Prosser Career Academy alumnus. He graduated from UIC in 2020 with a degree in Civil Engineering, and is now currently in his second year of the Army Corps Pathway Internship Program.


As a Pathways Intern, Jonathan mainly rotates around departments assisting other engineers on their projects using systems such as mapping and computer-aided design. Typically, his projects deal with ecosystem restoration or flood management in the Midwestern region. The main goals of his team are reversing ecosystem degradation by helping wildlife, improving air quality, and improving water quality.


Overall, Jonathan says that he has genuinely enjoyed his experience in the Pathways Internship Program, citing that the biggest lessons he has learned is how to be a team member and a real engineer. In the Civil Engineering program at UIC, Jonathan felt that the learning was more theoretical and problem solving. However, in the internship program, Jonathan physically works on a team and makes real-world applications to the problems that he is solving.


We asked Jonathan how he found the Army Corp’s Pathway Internship Program, and he told us that his connections brought him this opportunity! It was specifically one of his professors at UIC who worked for the Army Corps, and knew of Jonathan’s interest in civil engineering. Jonathan told us that he had a personal relationship with his professor, and would always listen to details of the environmental projects his professor worked on which piqued his interest in the program and led him to apply.


After his second year in the program, which is this year, Jonathan will officially become a member of the Army Corps of Engineers. He says that the process of transitioning from intern to member is fairly simple. At the end of the year, Jonathan gets a choice of three departments from which the Corps will find an opening for him. 

Ultimately, Jonathan says that his life goal is to restore ecosystems around the world by improving waterways, making sure clean water is accessible to everyone, developing environmental perspectives to solve problems, and enacting plans that benefit wildlife and people simultaneously. He says that learning about various environmental problems has truly inspired him. This is why he advises people interested in pursuing a similar career path to be more confident and tackle projects with a positive mindset even if they don’t have much experience in that department.


We asked Jonathan what he does outside of being an engineer, and we were pleasantly surprised to hear all the many ways that he keeps himself busy! Overall, he loves music. He is currently learning piano, but also has a wide range of tastes in artists. Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Arctic Monkeys, Bad Bunny, J. Balvin are the artists that he says reflect who he is right now. Jonathan is also a member of a running club, and will begin running races soon. Lastly, he likes to read and is a member of an unofficial book club, where he is currently reading the book Dune ahead of seeing it in theaters.


We at the Wentcher Foundation are so proud of Jonathan! We wish him luck as he transitions out of the Internship Program and begins a career in civil engineering!

Picture of Author: Nia Harris

Author: Nia Harris

Currently living in NYC, Nia Harris is a NYU graduate and Fulbright Scholar working for the Wentcher Foundation as the Program Associate. She writes for her own blog, Nashari which you can find here.

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