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WCU Stories

Engineer Your Own Future

College of Engineering and Technology

Cristian Trujillo Tavera is a senior in Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology majoring in mechanical engineering. Tavera is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals student from Guanajuato, Mexico, who came to the United States with his family at the age of 7.


Growing up in Atlanta, Tavera dreamed of getting Georgia’s Hope Scholarship to fund his higher education. Being undocumented prevented Tavera from obtaining the Hope Scholarship, but the Golden Door Scholarship offered a new dream.

“I received the Golden Door Scholarship out of thousands of applicants," Tavera said. “It provided a four-year full ride for DACA students to partnering schools. Western Carolina happened to be one of those schools.”

“It’s a small classroom setting, so you can really get to know your professors, faculty and students on a more personal level,” he said. “The friends I’ve made have taught me how to kayak, paddle board, hike and fly fish.”

The project-based learning classes at WCU teach you how to work as a team and find a solution


Tavera’s family has also supported his journey through higher education. “My mom and dad have always supported and trusted me in the things that I want to do; sometimes they have had more confidence in me than I’ve had in myself,” Tavera said. Tavera’s parents have plenty of reason to place confidence in their son. Tavera is the treasurer of a club he helped found, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, as well as completing his capstone this semester in creating training guides for new technicians, while also working as an intern for Kubota. 

Tavera and a few other students, with support from engineering and technology assistant professor Nelson Granda-Marulanda, started the first chapter of SHPE at WCU. 

Cristian of CET
Cristian of CET
Cristian of CET

Tavera credits SHPE with crafting his professional and networking skills outside of the classroom. “SHPE, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers are all important to have at Western because they offer national conventions where members can gain personal development and network with some of the best engineering companies in America,” he said.

Tavera recommends the College of Engineering and Technology to prospective students because of the hands-on experience in the classroom.


“I have had friends that go to schools that may be bigger with more recognition who do capstones that are equivalent to our junior level classes,” Tavera said. “Our capstone is sponsored by companies in the local area where you can go to their manufacturing buildings and work there.”

Tavera has experienced firsthand the impact of working at a company and seeing the engineering in action. “I saw all the robots do all the work. Before I saw that, I thought working with robots would be boring or lame. When I saw how one cell was working, I was really amazed,” he said. 

After graduation, Tavera will take on a new role with Caterpillar’s engineering rotational development program. 

“The project-based learning classes at WCU teach you how to work as a team and find a solution,” Tavera said. “You are put together with a group of students from other engineering fields and work together. I enjoy engineering because I enjoy teamwork. I enjoy expressing your opinions and expertise together to find a better solution.”

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