Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Sebastian Grillo
Sebastian Grillo San Jose State University, B.S.

Sebastian Grillo, a native of Colombia, followed a less traditional path to CSM: he began his college education at an out-of-state university. Upon moving from Florida to California, the civil engineering major contacted several potential universities to which he considered transferring. He received the same response from all of the schools:he needed to complete his general education requirements at a community college.“I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of attending a community college. However, once I visited CSM I was sold by the campus’s eye opening, breathtaking views and friendly atmosphere.”

When classes began at CSM, Sebastian was immediately impressed that subjects he needed for his major -- science, engineering and physics— had between 20-30 students, unlike those same classes at large colleges and universities. Small class size allowed him to interact and build strong relationships with his professors and peers, which Sebastian believes contributed to his academic success. “The caliber of the education that I received at CSM was impressive; so many of my professors had degrees from some of the most prestigious universities in the nation.”Sebastian acknowledges Professor of Engineering Laura Demsetz, who was his instructor and advisor, as someone who played a significant role in his academic career.“Professor Demsetz was very helpful in making sure I choose the correct classes for the university I wanted to attend and that is critical for community colleges who intend to transfer.”

Sebastian forged a closer connection with CSM when became involved in student government serving as a member of the Student Senate. Through his participation in student government, he had opportunities to interact with faculty and members of the administration, including the college president and vice president. For his contributions as a student leader, Sebastian was honored with the Allan R. Brown Award, the college’s prestigious service award.

“CSM gave me what I needed in order to continue my education – it allowed me to fulfill my general education requirements and transfer to San Jose State University (SJSU) in 2009 to complete my civil engineering studies. I was fortunate that the college offered engineering courses that were transferrable and helped me to get ahead faster once I transferred. My experience at CSM was tremendous and it was absolutely a high caliber education.”

Sebastian’s experience at CSM also provided a unique career opportunity.With major construction underway at the college, Sebastian took the initiative to contact CSM’s construction contractor about internship positions with the company. In summer of 2008, he was hired by McCarthy Building Companies as a project intern for several construction sites, including CSM. The position provided practical, real world understanding about the inner workings of the construction industry.

In spring 2011, Sebastian graduated from SJSU with his BS in civil engineering. In addition, he passed the grueling Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, a national test offered by the Board of Land Surveyors and Engineers, a prerequisite to sitting for the Professional Engineering Exam. He is currently employed as a project engineer with Sares-Regis Group.

His thoughts in retrospect about attending a community college: “CSM completely changed my perspective toward community colleges. I am a strong advocate for them now!”