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As part of our Member Appreciation Program, we are showcasing a member in our bi-monthly Board Member Spotlight. Our member spotlight recognizes members for their outstanding contributions to the profession and our local communities. For any questions regarding the program please email




Rafael Contreras


Project Engineer
City of Vernon, California
Community Service Co-Chair
ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum


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.

Favorite hobbies, sports, and interests outside of engineering?
Growing up it was definitely soccer, but I’ve grown to like all sports. 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.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...

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


Describe your responsibilities and some 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.

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.

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

What project are you currently working on and what have you accomplished/what are your tasks? 

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 others in a very clear and concise manner.

What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?


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

Who is someone you Admire and Why?

If you have one piece of advice to give to young professionals what would it be?

Lastly, what would be your personal motto?


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