Construction Management graduate finishes decade-long journey to commencement

Diego Ruiz smiling profile picture wearing a ram built jacket

Diego Ruiz, outstanding graduate in the Colorado State University Department of Construction Management, has always called Northern Colorado home. After graduating from high school, he found he lacked the maturity and motivation to pursue his education at that time. Since then, he’s been on a long road in pursuit of higher education.

Heading back to school

Construction management team at a competition in Reno, Nevada.
Diego Ruiz, right, and his construction management team at a competition in Reno, Nevada.

During his first attempt at college, Ruiz, a first generation student, had dropped out after two semesters and decided to begin working for a glass manufacturing company. After being a part of that workforce for a few years, Ruiz learned the true importance of earning a degree.

“Although I am not afraid of hard work, I realized that my opportunities for professional advancement within the company were limited because I lacked higher education. Because of this realization, I decided to go back to college to pursue my degree,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz began working on his associate degree at Aims Community College, while he was still at his full-time job. This made it very difficult to schedule classes and be able to attend most of the time.

“I remember how rough it was for me to work a 12-hour night shift and to go straight to school for a five or six-hour school day, only to return to work for another 12-hour shift after taking a short nap. I suffered through sleep deprivation throughout my time at Aims, but it all paid off once I earned my associate degree,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz found that his experiences in the workforce helped him mature into a more responsible student and gave him the motivation he’d lacked when he was younger. During his time at Aims, Ruiz participated in the TRIO program which helped prepare him for transitioning to a four-year university.

“I visited multiple universities with the TRIO program before making my decision to attend CSU. I primarily made my decision to attend CSU due to travel convenience. After only one semester at CSU, I discovered that a decision based off convenience would turn out to be one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Ruiz.

The College of Health and Human Sciences and the Department of Construction Management provided Ruiz with a close-knit Ram Family.

“I felt a sense of pride and belonging in my program,” said Ruiz. “That in turn made me want to give all my best to the program.”

Overcoming obstacles

Once he transferred to CSU, he had to make the difficult decision to choose between continuing to work full-time or continuing to work towards his bachelor’s degree. He decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree, and soon ran into a new obstacle.

“When I first started a CSU, I did not qualify for any financial aid because I had earned too much from the job I had just quit. I was told that I would not qualify for financial aid until my tax return did not reflect my previous income,” explained Ruiz. Fortunately, he had money in his 401k account that he was able to withdraw to help fund him that year.

A year later, CSU had changed their review procedure for financial aid and began to evaluate aid from a student’s tax forms two years back instead of just one year back. Ruiz was helped by his Academic Advancement Center advisor and filed an appeal with financial aid which was successful.

Academic Advancement Center and TRIO Program

Diego and his wife Joselin smiling at Red Rocks for their engagement photo
Diego Ruiz and his fiancé Joselin’s engagement photo.

Ruiz says that one of the biggest lessons he learned at CSU was to not be afraid to ask for help. He is thankful for everyone that has helped him in his journey, especially those working with the AAC/TRIO program.

“Marilyn Thayer in the Academic Advancement Center truly helped me during times I felt like all my options were exhausted,” said Ruiz. “Dr. Mohammed Mehany in construction management is awesome and I feel that I am better prepared for my career because of him.”

For the past two years, Ruiz was involved with the Design Build competition team. In 2018, he competed in the Alternate’s Competition in Reno. Last year, Ruiz took over the role of estimator for the team and competed in the main competition. This year, he will provide coaching for current team members who will be competing in February.

While at CSU, Ruiz was able to make great connections within the industry, and ultimately received multiple full-time job offers. After graduation, Ruiz will start his career in construction with Hensel Phelps.

“The CSU Construction Management Department has done a great job giving me exposure to construction industry members,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz is also excited to marry his fiancé Joselin in June.

“Joselin has been by my side throughout my entire eight-year journey of earning my bachelor’s degree. She has been my motivation and inspiration throughout these years, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with her,” he said.

“With all the obstacles I encountered, I did my best to stay positive. I look back and I cannot believe that I finally made it to this point. I went from college dropout to graduating with distinction,” said Ruiz.

The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences

Read about more of the outstanding graduates in the College of Health and Human Sciences.