Combined Plan Student Chooses Best of Both Worlds

Tes DeJaeger attended Goucher College in Baltimore before transferring to Columbia to complete her dual degree. 

Sep 06 2022
headshot of Tes DeJaeger

Each year during orientation, Columbia Engineering not only welcomes incoming first-year students, but transfer and more than 125 combined plan students, as well. This unique dual-degree program allows students to graduate with both a BA degree in the liberal arts and a BS degree in engineering. Students typically spend three years in a liberal arts curriculum at another school before entering Columbia Engineering as a junior.  

Tes DeJaeger is a current student in the 3-2 combined plan program, combining her love of physics with creating new structures. We caught up with Tes, an aspiring civil engineer and an intern at the infrastructure design firm HNTB, to hear about why she chose to pursue engineering at Columbia. 

Why did you decide to become an engineer?

I have always been fascinated by the built-environment. When I was little, I was not allowed to watch much TV, but when I did sneak some screen-time, it wasn’t cartoons that I wanted to watch, it was HGTV. I loved watching projects start from the imagination, to concrete plans, to construction, and finally the end product. Civil engineering really intrigued me because it allows me to explore both design and management.

What made you choose Columbia Engineering and specifically what drew you to the dual-degree program?

I chose to do the dual-degree program because I knew it would provide the “best-of-both-worlds” college experience. I went to a small liberal arts college, Goucher College, and studied physics before Columbia. I juggled playing two DIII sports, academics, and other extra-curriculars. Now, being at Columbia I can focus strictly on engineering and building my career, while taking more of a recreational approach to sports and other activities. Since Columbia is in the heart of Manhattan, I knew it would be the perfect place to study civil engineering. There are so many fabulous examples of civil engineering masterpieces and opportunities to get involved with, even as a student. In fact, I will be continuing my internship part-time with HNTB providing consultant work for the JFK Airport Redevelopment Program that the Port Authority is undertaking.

How has the dual degree program allowed you to expand your educational interests?

I had an “aha” moment the first day of classes in Mechanics of Solids because the professor started talking about stress and strains on steel members and I knew I was in the right place and following the right academic and career path. Since then, I have been able to expand my interests by taking more construction management and finance classes. The plethora of courses offered at Columbia allow me to explore more topics within my major and also pursue outside interests, which will also enhance my career.

When you think about “Engineering for Humanity,” how do you intend to apply that vision to your future work?

One of the ways I intend to apply the “Engineering for Humanity” vision to my future work is to design civil works through the lens of sustainability. In order to design and construct sustainable buildings, I must consult and partner with those that have the same intentions when it comes to prioritizing sustainability. Experts in the field that would rather choose a certain material for its environmental benefits than the cheapest option are key to my success. Also, consulting with the surrounding community is very important. My built work will directly affect those in the community and their feedback is paramount to the success of my projects.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience at Columbia Engineering?

I received the Henry Michel Scholarship at Columbia Engineering. This scholarship proves that all of my hard work is paying off and others see my potential. It also pushed me to achieve more and represent Columbia proudly.

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