Dr. Doris Espiritu has been teaching and leading programs at City Colleges of Chicago – chemistry, biophysics, engineering, and computer science – for 13 years, and is continually striving to provide research experiences, professional development, and other exceptional opportunities for her students.

As Executive Director of Wright College’s Engineering Program, Dr. Espiritu has been instrumental in creating the Engineering Pathways program at the college, which provides guaranteed admissions to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) engineering program. This is the only City Colleges program that has guaranteed admission to the UIUC engineering program and has a selective admissions process, especially encouraging minorities and women to apply. She was also able to build a holistic and programmatic approach for transfer (HPAT) model with Illinois Tech’s Armour College of Engineering, which is now published and ready for duplication. As a result of such efforts and the program’s growth overall, Wright College designated Engineering and Computer Science as the focus for its Center of Excellence.

As an example of the program’s success, William Ma was Wright’s very first Engineering Pathways student, having attended the first information session and submitted his application for early decision acceptance. A graduate of Lane Tech High School, William was able to land an internship with Underwriters Laboratories thanks to a partnership with Wright and a reference from Dr. Espiritu. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at UIUC and is now a product engineer at Masonite.

To further support students with opportunities outside of the classroom, Dr. Espiritu has partnered with universities like Princeton to help students secure paid internship positions where they have the chance to work with top scientists in the country and abroad, and present their research nationally. In fact, Truman College student Edgar Brian Mejia was accepted into the program, allowing him to research molecular biophysics – an opportunity he would not have had otherwise. Edgar began his studies at City Colleges by taking English as a Second Language and science classes in order to eventually pursue a degree in engineering.

Additionally, Dr. Espiritu trained in computational chemistry at the Academies of Sciences in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2017, which has helped her provide additional research opportunities to students. She has had students work on a data mining project to study the health of the Chicago River, as well as secured space to work on the experimental aspect of her research in computational chemistry at the UIC College of Medicine.

In 2018, Dr. Espiritu was instrumental in securing a $1.43M National Science Foundation research grant for “Building Bridges into Engineering and Computer Science.” The Bridge Program eliminated up to two years of foundational/developmental math for participants, and students of the first cohort are now transferring to top universities in the country, including UIUC, two years after joining the program. Most recently, Dr. Espiritu launched the “Digital Bridge,” the first iteration of a larger computing pipeline in partnership with Discovery Partners Institute (DPI).

For Dr. Espiritu, these accomplishments are just the beginning, as she is working on growing Wright College’s Center of Excellence and developing additional partnerships with other four-year universities, K-12 institutions, non-profit organizations, and industry partners. The goal is to continuously improve to create equitable engineering education in Chicago and across the country.

If you are interested in learning more about the work Dr. Espiritu and her students are doing, or you want to learn more about Wright College’s Engineering Pathways, you can contact her at despiritu@ccc.edu.

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