Antonia Roman

First-generation engineering student fulfills family dream

Antonia Roman’s graduation completes years of aspirations

Antonia Roman’s success is for more than just herself.

It’s for her parents who did not have the opportunity to finish high school, and her many cousins who started college but did not make it through. It’s the culmination of Roman family hopes, aspirations and dreams.

With Roman’s graduation from the University of South Carolina, those dreams are fulfilled.

“We feel really, really happy. It’s almost like we completed our goal now that she and her brother are finished,” says mother, Estela Roman, through Antonia Roman’s translation. “I can’t really put it into words. It’s emotion so strong that I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Growing up with more than 80 cousins, Antonia Roman watched many start college without having the opportunity to complete their degrees. But, through the support of UofSC, Roman was able to navigate the college system. Now, she is the third person in her extended family with a college degree, earning a bachelor’s in civil and environmental engineering from the College of Engineering and Computing.

“We feel like such proud parents,” says Estela Roman, as her husband, Lorenzo Roman, slides his arm around her shoulder. “We have a large family and not many were able to go to college and finish.

“When she and her brother were kids, we always instilled in them how important education is and how beautiful education is. We didn’t have the opportunity to even finish high school, so it’s just something that was really important to us to make sure they knew.”

At South Carolina, Antonia Roman found the resources she needed as a first-generation student. The UofSC Career Center offered help on her resume and LinkedIn profile, and career fairs provided face-to-face time with employers. She received support from the university at every step in her journey.

It’s almost like we completed our goal now that she and her brother are finished. … It’s emotion so strong that I don’t know how to put it into words.

Estela Roman, Antonia Roman's mother

“I am first-generation, so it was weird because I don’t have my parents to ask or anything,” says Roman, who is the recipient of the College of Engineering and Computing’s B.P. "Pete" Barber Civil Engineering Scholarship, given annually to select students in the civil engineering department. “So, I do feel like USC really helped me to have the confidence to apply for jobs.”

That confidence led Antonia to reach out to Dennis Corp. after her sophomore year and CDM Smith the following summer. Both companies offered her internships, supplying her with professional experience at local and national engineering firms.

Those opportunities also led to a full-time job offer. On Jan. 4, she will start as a transportation engineer at CDM Smith, working on their bridge engineering team.

“Oh my gosh, I’m really proud,” Estela Roman says. “I tell everybody, I tell my family, my friends. I was even proud just her having an internship and telling people that she had experience in the engineering field now. I just want the whole world to know.”

In the days leading up to her December graduation, Roman tried to imagine how she and her parents would feel on the big day.

“I think my mom will cry, of course, and I know I’ll be very excited,” she says. “I think it will be different because it is virtual, but I will have my parents and my brother there, and just people locally. Most of my family lives in Georgia, so we are not going to do a big party like we originally planned, but I still think it will be surreal.”