East Bay Student Engineers her Path to Success through Involvement

By CHARLEEN EARLEY | Correspondent
PUBLISHED: August 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm | UPDATED: August 22, 2017 at 4:15 am

Margot Vrana
City of Pittsburg civil engineering intern Brianne Visaya is photographed at a construction site along Railroad Avenue on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in Pittsburg, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

PITTSBURG — Brianne Visaya wants to save planet Earth, but also build things along the way. The 22-year-old civil and environmental engineer major is on track to graduate from Los Medanos College next spring, is working as an engineering intern at the city of Pittsburg, and has her teachers and parents to thank.

“LMC has provided more opportunities to me than my first semester at Sacramento State University,” said Visaya, of Pittsburg. “I joined the Honors Program, got more involved in the MESA program, and made connections with professors, students and faculty.”

“I spoke at Stanford University and UC Berkeley through my Honors Program, because I thought my ideas were ones people wanted and should hear. I kept getting involved!” she added. Involved is an understatement for Visaya who credits her community college with giving her what she needs to succeed.

During her time at LMC, she’s worked as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tutor at Pittsburg High, an Environmental Outreach coordinator for the city of Antioch and CalRecycle, an LMC Student Ambassador, and a NASA engineering intern at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

She also presented her independent research projects at Stanford (2015), UC Berkeley (2016) and, Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) in 2016 and again at Stanford this year.

One of her three research projects includes testing different light wavelengths to see which wavelength is optimal for plant growth on an invasive plant on the Delta called Egeria Densa, Brazilian water weed – with her colleague Sonia Bustos.

“Every single opportunity that came to me at LMC has deepened my love for engineering and learning that going to a traditional university — whether you go to a two-year or four-year — what matters is you take advantage of everything. Always apply yourself, even if you don’t think you’re qualified,” she said.

Filipino and Spaniard descent, Visaya was born in Sacramento, but grew up in Japan on Yokota Air Force Base in Fussa, Tokyo. She lived there for six years, and later attended high school in Kaiserslautern, Germany, graduating from Armijo High School in Fairfield. She loved moving.

“I loved living in a new place, learning about other cultures and meeting new people,” said Visaya, who, in her down time, enjoys hiking, running with her dog, mushroom-hunting, bird watching and soaking up the environment.

“Because I lived all around the world, I have unique experiences and perspectives on various topics,” she said. “When I was in third grade, my family and I went on a vacation to Thailand for a couple of months. It was there when I came face to face with extreme poverty, prostitutes, human trafficking and an unregulated third world country. I also spent time in the Middle East that made me realize the many misunderstandings Western perspective has on their culture, traditions and society. Traveling and living overseas has made me open-minded to other perspectives, cultures and people, which I personally think is an important trait to have.”

One of her favorite teachers at LMC is Honors Director Jennifer Saito, who teaches calculus, philosophy and humanities.

“She connected calculus with physics and space — all of the things that fascinate me. She revived the excitement of math that I thought I had lost,” Visaya said. “I also took her Humanities Paris class where I learned about various painters, composers and writers from one of my many favorite cities.”

“Saito’s dedication to all her students is extraordinary,” she added. “I look up to her because she does so much for her students. Another teacher I also look up to is Briana McCarthy, a biology professor. She encouraged me to apply for an internship at the California Academy of Sciences.”

Her love for learning started with Raul and Lydia Visaya.

“My parents have always supported me in everything I do; without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “My parents have given me the gift of traveling and allowing me to play music – I play one of the hardest instruments to master, the oboe. But more importantly, they never gave up on me. They always motivated me through the good times and especially the bad. They knew my potential before others or myself did.”

Proactive could be Visaya’s middle name.

“Don’t limit yourself to anything,” she said. “Always seek more opportunities and learn!”

Los Medanos College (LMC) is one of three colleges in the Contra Costa Community College District. LMC prepares students to excel and succeed economically, socially and intellectually in an innovative, engaging and supportive learning environment. It provides quality programs and state-of-the-art facilities to serve the needs of a rapidly growing and changing East County while enhancing the quality of life of the diverse communities it serves. LMC is located on 120 acres between Pittsburg and Antioch, with an additional education center in Brentwood.