Three years ago, Nick O’Reilly’s life was so different. He had a bachelor’s degree in film production and graphic design from Loyola University and had been working in the restaurant industry for years. Then, when the pandemic hit, Nick lost his restaurant job and was forced to figure out what was next.

One of Nick’s friends was taking courses at City Colleges, so he decided to give Wright College a try himself. He enrolled in biology and chemistry courses and excelled. These weren’t courses he liked in high school, so he hadn’t even thought about a career in science, technology, engineering, or math.

“That’s when I found engineering,” Nick said. “I saw engineering as a way to use science in a really practical way that reaches people and helps influence their day-to-day lives.”

Nick connected with Professor and Dean of the Engineering and Computer Science program Dr. Doris Espiritu. She helped him pick courses that would allow him to successfully graduate with an Associate in Engineering Science degree. This put Nick and many of his classmates on track to transfer to one of Wright Engineering’s guaranteed admissions partner schools, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

“It was really helpful to know that a university with such esteem looked at this program and said, ‘if you can succeed doing this, you are set up for success to transfer here,’” Nick said.

Wright set Nick up for success with its smaller class sizes, cohort program, professional development help, student resources, and internships. He was able to establish strong relationships with both professors and classmates. He also had his resume and LinkedIn page reviewed, and staff at Wright’s Writing Center made sure he understood his coursework and his papers were well-written. With that type of support, Nick said the college helped him land two high-profile, paid internships.

“Coordinators of the program have worked professionally as engineers, so they know first-hand what people look for when they’re hiring,” Nick said. “The professional development is the entire reason why I have been able to successfully land the two internships.”

Last summer, Nick participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Princeton University in molecular biophysics, where he was exposed to graduate-level research. This summer, he’s doing similar research in a material science lab at Argonne National Laboratory. Nick secured the internship thanks to the networking skills he learned at Wright, and he’s confident that what he’s learned will help him when he transfers.

“I’m transferring to UIUC for materials science and engineering, which is the discipline that the lab I’m working in this summer is under. I’m learning about the energy sphere, and I’m working with batteries. That’s kind of what I hope to do after school,” he said.

According to Nick, his Wright College education has completely changed his life. He values the mentorship that empowered him to pursue every life-changing opportunity that came his way. Eventually, he even wants to pursue his PhD.

"One of the blessings of being at Wright is that people are dying to invest in you and to give you opportunities and resources. I feel like an army is behind me."

Nick O'Reilly