Growing up, Wright College alumna Yessenia Nicacio-Rosales didn’t see as many women or as much Hispanic representation as she would have liked in engineering. She decided to change that.

The South Sider has always liked computers and wanted to know how they worked, but she hadn’t considered turning her interest into a career until coming to Wright. That’s when she decided she wanted to study computer engineering and met Dr. Doris Espiritu, professor and dean of the Engineering and Computer Science program—a meeting Yessenia calls “life-changing.”

“When I came to Wright, I ended up finding myself and a community,” Yessenia said. “I was really involved in organizations, and I liked doing research and working with Dr. Espiritu. She was so encouraging.”

During her time at Wright, Yessenia took advantage of internship opportunities and the Engineering program’s guaranteed admission pathway. Engineering students who meet the program’s criteria are guaranteed a spot at one of Wright’s partner colleges. In the fall, Yessenia will attend the Illinois Institute of Technology to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

This summer, Yessenia is doing research with the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). There, she’s learning to use technology to help people and better understand the environment. She’s working with a device called a “Raspberry Shake seismometer” that allows citizens to detect seismic events so scientists can provide more accurate data to the public.

“The research I worked on this summer taught me how to get the community involved with open data,” she said. “It’s helpful as I’m considering a career in geophysics or environmental engineering to combine with my computer engineering degree.”

The internship and Yessenia’s time at Wright have also shaped her future goals.

“It opened my mind that I could go further in education,” she said. “Due to this opportunity, I am definitely planning to attend UIUC for my PhD.”