Caitlin Kniazewycz


Role/Company: Gas Transmission Mapping Technician, Pacific Gas & Electric  

Major: Master of Urban Planning, '11; BFA, Interior Design, '07

Why are you proud to be a Spartan? I am proud to be a Spartan for so many reasons. I think of San José State as a workhorse of a university, a very important part of our state educational system and state and local economies. SJSU provides an affordable, high quality education to thousands of students from all kinds of backgrounds; the diversity of the student population is something I've grown to really appreciate. I feel a sense of pride and responsibility as a Spartan to represent the University's mission in both my personal and professional lives. 

Favorite SJSU memory: I have two. I met my boyfriend, Jordan Shepard ('02 Industrial Design), in the shop facilities in the Art building in my second semester at SJSU. I had just been hired as a student assistant and knew next to nothing about heavy machinery and working in a shop. On my first day, I asked a fellow assistant how I would ever learn what all the tools are for and where they are kept, and she said, "Oh, wait until you meet Jordan - he knows EVERYTHING." (He does.)

My other favorite memory, my crowning educational achievement, was when I handed the final draft of my Master's thesis to my advisor, just a week or so before graduation. I have never worked so hard on any one project in my entire life, and just thinking about it now brings back the euphoria of that moment.

What activities/organizations were you involved in as as student? In graduate school, I was involved with CommUniverCity San José, which is a really exciting collaboration between San José State University, the City of San José, and the communities around downtown San José.

Which professors had the greatest impact on you? It's so hard for me to pick one person, especially because I was taught by so many great professors over the course of earning two degrees, but I think Rick Kos, Lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, has had the largest impact on me and my career. My first class with Prof. Kos was Introduction to Geographic Information Systems for Urban Planners. GIS combines geographical information with statistical data, for analysis, management, and storage. That might sound a little dry, but I found it fascinating, and with Prof. Kos's instruction and advising, it became a key part of my graduate studies. After I graduated, Prof. Kos continued to mentor me and helped me find work opportunities using my GIS skills, which led directly to the job I have today with PG&E, mapping gas transmission pipelines and managing asset databases.

What influenced your success in getting a job after college: I could point to several hard skills, particularly in computer software, that helped me get a foothold into my post-college jobs, but really, the most important assets to my career have been the ability to work flexibly on multiple projects and to work collaboratively with people who have varied skill sets and experience, both of which were cornerstones of nearly every class I took at San José State. I've had more than one boss tell me that my professional interpersonal skills are what set me apart from other candidates for my job, and I feel I owe a large part of that to San José State.

Advice to current SJSU students: Be engaged with your education. Do not be afraid to raise your hand in class and ask questions! Participate in class, and your professors will know who you are. Reach out to your classmates and help each other and build connections that you can call on after you graduate.