When Sienna Wright read about her fellow Cleveland State University students also awarded the Outstanding Senior Award, she felt humbled.
“I didn’t even know I was qualified,” Wright says. “I was very surprised after listening to all the other students and their accolades.”
But Wright was more than eligible. The 25 year old, who graduated from CSU through the Lorain County Community College University Partnership program in December 2020, maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full time and raising her daughter, Lola.
Her professors – both at CSU and LCCC – saw excellence in her.
“Sienna distinguished herself in courses that pushed students to think deeply and critically about the material,” says Michael Horvath, Ph.D. associate professor in the psychology department at CSU and Wright’s nominator.
Eulalio Gonzalez, Ph.D., professor of psychology at LCCC saw the same in Wright.
“Sienna is a highly motivated and dedicated student who is passionate about learning as much as she can about the field of psychology,” Gonzalez says.
But Wright wasn’t always confident in her career choice. It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 that she found a pathway that gave her academic and work lives purpose.
The word of the summer
Wright graduated from Lorain County Early College High School in 2013 with her high school diploma from Elyria High School and an associate of arts degree from LCCC. She quickly followed up with a second degree, this time in applied business, in 2014.
After several years working in network marketing Wright felt like business was a natural fit. She enrolled at The University of Toledo through the LCCC University Partnership to earn a bachelor’s degree in business.
But Wright soon learned she wasn’t as passionate about business as she thought, so she withdrew, taking time off school to focus on work and Lola. But something was missing.
“Outside of being a mother and working, I felt like I didn’t have a purpose,” Wright says.
It wasn’t until summer 2019 that Wright was ready to find that purpose.
“That was the word of the summer – purpose,” Wright says. “Children look to their parents as role models and it made me reflect. I knew I had to model for Lola what it’s like to be committed to something, and to give your all.”
Wright went to church, prayed, and talked to her mentors. They suggested taking assessments to find her strengths and passion. Time after time, the assessments led her to mentoring and counseling.
Making it possible with the University Partnership
Wright went back to LCCC that same summer, and a year later transferred to Cleveland State University through the University Partnership program.
Driven and ready to excel, Wright took on a full-time course load while still working full time. Dr. Gonzalez’s initial reservations about her taking on too much quickly subsided.
“I believe she has been very successful because she is well grounded in her faith, has a strong moral compass, she knows what she wants in life, and she has such a positive attitude that radiates hope and optimism,” Gonzalez says.
Wright’s success in the classroom carried over into the psychology-related work experience Dr. Gonzalez encouraged her to take on. Wright began working at the Nord Center as a crisis aid and was also hired at a behavioral practice in Beachwood.
“The hardest part has been balance,” she says. “But I try to be really present for all the areas of my life.”
And Wright says the University Partnership has made it possible for her to continue her education without neglecting the other parts of her life.
“The University Partnership is tailored toward the working individual,” she says. “LCCC knows you have a life, children and jobs, and that you need to be able to continue living your life while you’re pursing your education.”
Playing the psychology field
One month before graduation, Wright landed yet another job. She’s a part-time strategy consultant at a law firm that specializes in internal investigations related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It’s really interesting to me,” Wright says. “I’m able to use everything I’ve learned during my undergraduate studies in a way that’s so different than I and those at the firm are used to.”
And Wright hopes the work experience will help her as she considers graduate school.
“I’m playing in both fields, clinical and industrial psychology, trying to figure out which one hits home the most,” she says.
As for the path she’s already taken – the one that led her to LCCC’s University Partnership – she can’t imagine choosing any other.
“I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Actually, I wouldn’t have been able to do it any other way.”