Trying it twice: Photographer selects electrical engineering for second bachelor’s

Vazquez in La Criba
Vazquez, center, with La Criba residents and fellow EWB CSU members.

“Everyone was always surprised when I went into art,” says Priscilla Vazquez, electrical engineering student.

Vazquez has a bachelor’s degree in photography from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. While in New York, she worked as a photographer and artist’s assistant, then went back home to Puerto Rico to start her own photography business. There, she freelanced for magazines and earned recognition for shooting photos in restaurants and hotels. But she wasn’t satisfied, and felt she had to take a next step in her career.

“I had been trying to write my entrance essay for a master’s in photography, and it wasn’t coming out right,” Vazquez said. “When I sat down to write my essay for engineering, it just came out really easily.”

Improving quality of life

Now she’s working through her junior year of the electrical engineering program and she’s thriving. She’s benefitting from a mentorship with Keysight Technologies, through which she’s learning about the business aspects of engineering, and she’s already secured an internship with Arrow Electronics for the summer.

“The big picture is I would like to take existing technologies and reimagine them or rework them in a way that will make people’s quality of life better,” Vazquez said.

Visit to La Criba, El Salvador
Residents of La Criba during EWB CSU’s visit to El Salvador.

Through her participation in the CSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Vazquez has been able to assist with the group’s project in El Salvador. They’re helping the residents of a small town integrate a water supply and distribution system, providing them with easy access to clean water, and improving quality of life. Vazquez has served as a translator and photographer for this project, providing her with a unique perspective.

“I get to capture these individuals not as poor or needy or worthy of pity, but rather as empowered individuals that are taking charge to make their community better,” said Vazquez. “I can use my engineering intelligence in a way that sows empathy and betters quality of life.”

Failing for future success

As vice president of Engineers Without Borders at CSU, Vazquez hopes to work on more projects through the club in the future – perhaps one in her home country of Puerto Rico. Whatever challenges she faces, through her membership to EWB, as an engineering student, or as a photographer, she maintains she’s not afraid of failure.

“For every big success in my life, I had to fail before I got there,” she said. “And if I want bigger, better successes, I need to fail bigger.”