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Central Washington University

He Was the First in his Family to Earn a Degree

Though Jon Setzer has always had high expectations of himself, when he graduated from CWU in the spring of 2012 to a well-paying job and a promising career, it was a surprise to both him and his parents.

Setzer is the first in his family to earn a college degree. “Attending college was something new to me,” he says. “Neither of my parents attended college, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.”

That’s why Setzer became a TRiO scholar at CWU. TRiO is different from programs that simply help students overcome financial barriers to higher education. TRiO supports students by teaching them how to solve problems. Advisers assist them in accessing campus resources, managing their time and money, refining study skills, and managing academic life.

Setzer worked hard at school and in a job for the Athletic Department while pursuing a degree in construction management in CWU’s College of Education and Professional Studies. In his senior year, he flew to Reno, Nevada to participate in a competition sponsored by national construction companies looking to hire young graduates.

“They tested us by asking us to develop and present a complete plan for a hypothetical commercial construction project,” says Setzer. “And within 18 hours we developed estimated budgets, logistics, and a construction schedule. Then we presented our materials, competing with students from throughout the West Coast.”

After his success in that competition, Setzer received two job offers in February of his senior year. “I couldn’t believe I had multiple offers four months before graduation,” says Setzer. “I was the kind of student that had to work hard for my grades. None of it came easy and being able to have a job and career locked down so early was a big deal.”

Setzer’s parents were surprised and proud. In fact, his success has inspired family members to pursue their own dreams. His youngest brother is now attending a community college. His middle brother is completing a paramedic program and his mother graduated from the Evergreen Beauty College in Bellevue last summer. The photo above is of Selzer and his mother  on her graduation day.

Setzer now works as a project engineer for Skanska USA Building in Seattle, a leading company that provides comprehensive construction services and develops public-private partnerships with an expertise in everything from small renovations to billion-dollar projects.

“I develop and manage everything from the contract process to the execution and building of the actual project. I also work as the middle man between the design and construction teams, finding solutions to issues as they arise,” says Setzer. “I really love what I do.” Setzer has been working for Skanska for almost two years and is on his second project for Boeing. “We have some exciting projects in progress which could potentially land me across the country,” he says.

Setzer is good at finding solutions—and opportunities. CWU's TRiO Program made sure of that.