Regina Reilly

Picture of Regina Reilly

Adult Student, Aresty Researcher and Successful Graduate

Originally featured in the Fall 2008 newsletter

Regina Reilly, 47, started her academic career at the age of 40. As a wife and doting provider to 2 Siberian Huskies, she earned an Associates in Liberal Arts from Middlesex County College while attending classes part time for 4 years and working full time for a ship broker. Reilly transferred to Rutgers’ Livingston College in September 2006 and later earned a Bachelors in Social Work in May 2008 with a 4.0 GPA. Her transition into Rutgers wasn’t easy, but she managed to thrive. She exclaimed, “I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!”

“The most difficult challenge I faced as an adult student at Rutgers was getting up the nerve to do it. I was petrified! I had been working full time for basically 25 years and was successful in my career. I was afraid of how I was going to feel if I was not successful in the academic world. My role changed from full-time employee to full-time student,” says Reilly. An added challenge was trying to balance personal life with academia. Reilly recalls, “[it] sometimes got a little frustrating, but things always have a way of working out.”

Reilly received an email inviting students to apply to be a Paul Robeson Scholar, which included writing an honors thesis. The prospect of writing a thesis encouraged her to apply. Once accepted, she was greeted with support and direction by the Aresty staff and developed her thesis question: "If our country were to suffer another [9/11] attack of great magnitude, and prospective rescue workers perceived life-threatening risks to their health, would they volunteer?" This question lead to Reilly’s in-depth research entitled "Forsaken Heroes: The Aftermath of the Rescue/Recovery Operation at the World Trade Center." It focused on the volunteers who had helped during the search, rescue, recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero and who are now sick. As a Paul Robeson Scholar, she later presented her work at the Aresty Symposium.

Reilly explained that her research took a lot of work but it was worth all her extra time and effort. For any adult student considering an enhanced research opportunity, she recommends that one seriously think about the time that will be taken away from other areas of your life, like being with family or friends, hobbies, entertainment, etc.

“As adults, our lives are generally pretty full, so that is a serious consideration. You really have to want to do it and I say go for it! It is an amazingly rewarding experience to have gone through the process and see it come to fruition. It really made me feel good about myself. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

As for Dave, Reilly’s husband, he may not want Regina to do another project right away, but he will support her. The price Dave paid most to be married to a very determined student...lots of leftover meals.;

Reilly will commence graduate studies at Columbia University School of Social Work in New York this fall in the Advanced Standing program and expects to earn her Master of Science in Social Work in May 2009. She hopes to return to Rutgers in the not-so-distant future and earn her Doctorate in Social Work.