Angie Feliz ’13 is driven to succeed. She taught herself English as a teenager newly relocated from the Dominican Republic to Newark, held down two jobs while going to community college, and is today simultaneously working full time for PSE&G and pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management at NJIT.
The 26-year-old, who already holds a bachelor’s in civil engineering from the university, is part of a PSE&G team in South Plainfield responsible for upgrading the company’s substations’ voltage from 26 kV to 69 kV, thereby making its system more reliable. She works alongside a project manager to oversee projects from start to finish — from initiation and authorization through the engineering, procurement, construction, energization (when the team puts the project in service) and closing phases.
“That’s one of the things I really enjoy about my job,” said Feliz. “I get to see a lot of the engineering work in one project, and I get to be a part of all of it.”
As an NJIT student, Feliz interned at PSE&G the summer before her December graduation, opting for the New Jersey public utility over Jacobs Engineering, a professional-services firm in Manhattan that also was interested in her. Her decision proved to be especially beneficial. Not only did she have the opportunity to gain real-world experience and learn from her co-workers, she received a job offer from PSE&G three months before completing her studies at NJIT. She started at PSE&G in January 2014.
From Cuba to New Jersey
Feliz was born in Cuba and moved at age 4 to the Dominican Republic with her parents and younger sister, now an NJIT student as well. Twelve years later, they came to Newark where her mother’s cousin resided. “He was kind of our helping hand when we got here, so we lived with him for a couple of months,” Feliz remembered.
She was assigned to Barringer High School, situated in a low-income neighborhood. While she felt that many of her classmates were apathetic about studying and unable to envision their future, and consequently tended to get themselves into trouble, she herself was able to dream big and succeed, thanks largely to her parents.
“Knowing my parents and the way they raised me, it was like you go to school, you do good,” said Feliz, whose father is an electrical engineer and her mother an engineer working as a substitute teacher in Newark. “That was my job, and they would provide so in the future I could work and do what I want.”
Among her greatest challenges — and triumphs — was learning English. She was placed in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Barringer and quickly advanced. Within five months of arriving in the United States, she passed the High School Proficiency Assessment standardized test, and a year later as a senior was enrolled in regular English classes. Much of her progress can be attributed to her determination, dedication and an old dictionary she brought with her from the Dominican Republic. Feliz toted books home from the school library and spent time every day for four months translating them word-by-word, “writing in a notebook so I could make sense of all this reading.”
Also helpful was a summer Upward Bound program at NJIT, provided by the university’s Center for Pre-College Programs. Through Upward Bound, Feliz attended classes in reading and writing English, went on educational field trips, honed her public-speaking skills and much more. “It was really good,” she commented about the program. “It pushed me a little further…and complemented what I was doing on my own.”
College and Career
Feliz’s hard work paid off, with her graduating as salutatorian from Barringer. She then earned an associate degree at Essex County College while employed at both Rainbow Shops and State Farm to pay for her tuition. Two and a half years later, she transferred to NJIT to study civil engineering.
“NJIT was always the place I wanted to be,” remarked Feliz, who participated in the NJIT chapters of Women in Engineering and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers as an undergrad. “It was an engineering school that everybody talked about.”
Feliz will receive her master’s from NJIT this coming May. Ever ambitious, she also is working toward her PMP certification as a project-management professional.
“Angie is a talented engineer with great enthusiasm for the work we do in constructing a strong, reliable and resilient system for our customers. She has been a terrific addition to our team,” said Isabel Goncalves-Rooney ’89 (B.S. in engineering), ’97 (M.S. in management), director of transmission projects, PS&G Delivery Projects and Construction. “As a proud alumna of Newark College of Engineering, I know the quality of the education that students receive at NJIT. PSE&G has hired a number of students as intern engineers and then — like Angie — as employees after graduation.”