For recent Wright College graduate Dominika Panek, getting involved on campus was an essential part of her college journey.

She was an editor for Wright’s Great Books Symposium Journal, a student-run literature publication, and she organized bone marrow drives on Wright’s campus for Be the Match, a national nonprofit organization. Throughout her time at Wright, Dominika also served as a senator, vice president, and eventually president of the college’s Student Government Association (SGA). It was her SGA connection that led her to a life-changing scholarship.

When Dominika first joined SGA, many of the members were talking about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, an award worth up to $55,000 per year that helps community college students transfer to four-year colleges and universities. During her final year at Wright, Dominika applied for and received the prestigious scholarship. She plans to transfer to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC) this fall, where the award will cover the entire cost of her tuition and fees.

“With this scholarship, I’m able to focus on my goals, my dreams, and my future instead of my finances,” she said. “It also opens up a huge opportunity for me to network with other scholars and students across the country.”

Dominika’s SGA involvement didn’t just lead to a full-ride scholarship, but it also opened the door for her to explore a new passion she never considered: engineering. Dominika was originally on a pre-med track, but she was taking so many classes that could award her an engineering degree, members of the department reached out and told her more about Wright’s Engineering program. Dominika’s SGA advisor encouraged her to take a leap of faith and try it out. She loved it.

Wright’s Engineering program also has a guaranteed transfer agreement with UIUC, meaning if a student successfully completes their engineering degree at Wright, a spot is waiting for them at the university—Dominika’s top choice.

“The Engineering program has opened up so many doors and networking opportunities for me,” she said. “I have a clearer vision of what I want to do with my future now.”

Dominika is spending the summer doing research with the Regenerative Engineering Department at Northwestern University. It aligns with exactly what she wants to do in the future.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity in the first place without Wright’s Engineering program,” she said.

After completing her degree at UIUC, Dominika wants to continue doing research and expanding the horizons of the scientific world. She knows Wright has set her up for success and taught her to be open to opportunities and things that scare her because they’ll help her grow the most. It’s advice she’ll take with her to UIUC and beyond.