Student Spotlight: Angela Ulloa
When Angela Ulloa was a girl, she wanted to do something for her country.
“My dad always says that the fight for freedom in an honorable one,” she explained. “I went to join the Marines in 1999, but my parents were really concerned. So after 9/11, I joined the Army and headed to basic in May 2003.
“I loved being in the Army. I loved waking up, knowing what I was supposed to wear and how I was to act. My favorite times in the Army were in basic training and the deployment to Afghanistan. It was stressful but everyone spent so much time together that we really became like a family.”
Ulloa would have re-enlisted but instead met someone, married and later had two boys. She fulfilled her military contract by joining the Illinois National Guard, in which she served for more than seven years.
In looking for a new career, Ulloa wanted to attend college and did her homework when choosing where to go.
“First I made a list of schools in the area, found out which ones were federally accredited, looked at the available options and then I signed up for classes at College of DuPage,” she said.
She decided to pursue her love of art and earned an Associate in Arts degree. However, something was missing.
“I love art but realized it’s a fun hobby for me,” she said. “I had no direction in the art world so I took Career Development with Dana Thompson. We had to create a portfolio based on jobs that matched our personality test. I have always taken math and science for fun and never imagined that I was intelligent enough to do anything with it. Part of the portfolio involved an interview with an engineer, so Dana suggested that I talk to Katie Nagle, COD’s Engineering adviser/professor at that time. I instantly felt I had something in common with her.”
Ulloa began pursuing a second degree in Engineering at COD. It wasn’t always easy, juggling coursework with raising a family. But she was grateful for the help and inspiration of her instructors and various College services.
“Every teacher who I had was a huge inspiration,” she said. “I think I used all of COD’s services at one time or another. The advisers were there every step of the way helping me to know what class I should take that would transfer. When my grandma was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, I kept my teachers informed so they could help me stay up-to-date with all of my classes. It was such a huge help.
“I’ve also been diagnosed with a form of dyslexia that is caused by specific wavelengths in light. My kids broke my glasses, so my ability to read with speed was hindered. I went to Student Services and they allowed me to take tests in their office. The professors in my classes who were most affected by this problem were very understanding and did everything in their power to help guide me.”
As for her family, she arranged her schedule to maximize her time.
“Saturdays and Sundays are the days for the kids. They get to direct how we play that day for healthy bonding, whether it’s jumping in mud puddles or building train tracks. I also tried to do that for 15 minutes every day,” she said. “As soon as I got to school, I stayed until my homework was as done as it could get. I would register for classes as soon as I could so I could put together a schedule that required me to be at school the least amount of days, even at the expense of longer class periods. That made it possible to have a family life outside of class without affecting my grades.”
Ulloa earned her Associate Degree in Engineering Studies and transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She became a member of Pi Tau Sigma, the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society at UIC.
But then she moved to Kentucky for an engineering co-op at Toyota, an offer that was too good to refuse. She finished her last year of school at the University of Kentucky, but when Toyota announced it was moving its facility, she began looking for another position. She started as a design engineer for SWECO, but a drop in gas prices forced the company to lay off employees.
Ulloa decided to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and is now an Engineer In Training (EIT), which means she can apply for her PE license in four years. She has since secured a job with OnLine Design as a mechanical engineer working on machine components for P&G.
However, life took a new turn when she started her own business on the side, bidding projects online and completing the design work. She purchased a 3D printer and hopes to offer basic mock-up services.
“I would never have guessed that this is where I would end up,” she said. “I am having fun and living the dream I didn’t know I had.”
Ulloa is thankful to College of DuPage for providing a high-quality education and knows her degree has made her marketable in many ways. She urges others to take the plunge into education.
“I want to offer a message of hope: Anyone can do anything they want if they only put their mind to it,” she said. “I did and you can, too. I am now able to give my kids the life I hoped I could. Don’t ever give up on your dreams and they won’t give up on you!”
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