From art to engineering, my pathway from high school to college wasn’t linear, but City Colleges of Chicago helped me find my next steps.

I moved to Chicago from suburban Bartlett just after high school to pursue a degree in fine art. But things changed as time went on, and after a decade in the food service and hospitality industry, I made the decision to pursue a career in engineering. I didn’t really know how to become an engineer—I just knew I need to get back into school.

I began my studies at Harold Washington College, but while attending a class at Wright College one summer, I learned about the college’s Engineering Pathways program. The program offers guaranteed admissions to the selective engineering programs at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I knew a program like this could launch my future in engineering, so I applied and was so excited when I found I had been accepted.

The connections I was able to make at Wright College were so valuable. My academic advisor, Keith Jones, worked with me extensively, and I met frequently with the Engineering Department’s coordinator of academic and career programs, Bridget O’Connell. I was active in many professional organizations and held two executive board positions with the American Chemical Society’s Wright College Student Chapter. Tutoring and student-led engineering study groups were so beneficial to me, and I helped organize the chemistry study group during my time at Wright. I was even employed by Wright as an engineering tutor.

The cohort model within the Engineering program made the experience worthwhile. I attended my classes with the same group of students, and Dr. Espiritu, the executive director of the program, gave us fantastic advice, telling us that networking effectively is vital to finding internships and getting job offers. She was so right. Her internship fairs were instrumental to landing both my internships: one at AECOM, a global construction engineering firm, and the second at G&W Electric, an electric equipment company.

I transferred to the Illinois Institute of Technology after earning my associate degree at Wright, and I will be graduating in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, I’ll start my career as a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin, an aerospace defense company, working on Trident missile systems and assisting in the integration and testing of new systems on the United States Navy’s fleet of submarines. I’m excited to be a part of the design and application of the project’s technical mission requirements.

The foundational knowledge I gained at Wright College was absolutely key to my success. The Engineering program launched me towards a four-year degree and an exciting career in engineering.

~Written by James Featherstone, Wright College alum, Class of 2021

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