Student Stories: William Manzanilla

William Manzanilla

Major: Architecture

William Manzanilla’s interest in architecture began when he took a STEM class in eighth grade.

“I soon taught myself how to use Revit (a building information modeling software) to create interesting houses out of my imagination,” he said. “The thing that cemented my path to architecture was joining the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentor Program, where we learned about architecture and carried out a design competition with the help of real professionals. I joined the program my junior year of high school, where I was awarded an internship with Gensler, a prestigious architecture firm in the heart of Chicago for my hard work and dedication to the project.”

When it came time for college, Manzanilla had his heart set on attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. However, when he was not accepted, he turned to College of DuPage and discovered an even better option.

College of DuPage really set an incredible foundation for me to continue my education in the most effective and successful way possible.

William Manzanilla

“I like to think it was fate,” he said. “My sister was a student at College of DuPage studying engineering. She talked to me about their beautiful campus and great programs, and I decided to apply.

“I had the most amazing experience at College of DuPage. The professors were very professional, tough yet fair, and always knew the best ways to help us grow. I reference the things I was taught at College of DuPage to this day. Professors like Jane Ostergaard and Mark Pearson really took my knowledge to the next level. They were, in fact, the best professors I have ever had, and I thank them for everything they did in those three years I attended. The courses and teachings were also laid out in a way that would prepare us for a successful transfer into another accredited architecture program.”

Helping him with tuition were several scholarships, and Manzanilla—who earned his Associate in Applied Science—is especially grateful for a $25,000 transfer scholarship that provided guaranteed admission to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and helped him seamlessly transition.

COD/IIT Transfer Agreement

“I am a first-generation student who is a DACA recipient,” he said. “DACA is a program for immigrant students to study and work in the U.S. My family did not have enough money for me to attend a university, so while I was able to pay for my College of DuPage education, my studies would have ended if not for the transfer scholarship I received as a College of DuPage architecture student.”

At IIT, Manzanilla found tough classes but felt well-prepared by his COD coursework. He became a teaching assistant for the ACE Summer Design Build program, helping high school students learn about architecture and work on a real-world project with The Breathing Room. They created a safe space for all minorities, especially people of color, to create a community and receive the help they may need.

Manzanilla also was awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Diversity Scholarship, for which he initially didn’t qualify as an immigrant student.

“I sent a respectful email expressing my disappointment about the qualifications necessary for the scholarship, explaining how diverse I was as a first-generation student who moved to the U.S at the age of 8. I was granted permission by AIA to apply and was told they would revise their qualifications necessary for next year! I was so excited and was very lucky to have been chosen as a recipient. Thanks to that scholarship, I no longer worked during the semester and could focus all my time on my classes. This boosted my grades and my projects greatly. I was also featured in the Chicago Architect Magazine Fall 2021 issue, which was a great honor.”

At IIT, he was one of 10 students selected for a new co-terminal degree program and is now completing both a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Tall Buildings and Vertical Urbanism. He traveled to Singapore to research tall sustainable buildings; created a project, Mycelium Myriad, a futuristic resilient city designed with sustainability and biomimicry in mind; and was a semifinalist in the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s International Student Tall Building Design Competition.

His ultimate career goal is to start his own architecture firm. More importantly, Manzanilla wants to be an inspiration for minorities.

“I was very lucky to have a lot of opportunities, and it is important to be a resource for the next generation of minority students,” he said. “I would like to join the ACE Mentor Program and show that it is possible to succeed in a white-dominated field. I hope to one day get the opportunity to work alongside Gensler again and make some great architecture along the way.”

More COD Success Stories

As for COD, he would recommend the school and the Architecture program to prospective students without hesitation.

“You will have the same or perhaps even a better education than at a four-year university at such a lower price, which to me made a big difference as I’m sure it will to other students as well,” he said. “The professors really care about the students and have such incredible knowledge and experience. You will be prepared to shine. It is a lot of work and a challenging program, but some hard work goes a very long way. Lastly, enjoy it. It is a beautiful school with great peers, awesome projects and great professors.

“I'm very grateful to the ACE Mentor Program, AIA Illinois and my professors at College of DuPage. I couldn't be where I am today without such incredible guidance, and I really miss them and their classes. College of DuPage really set an incredible foundation for me to continue my education in the most effective and successful way possible.”

Learn more about the Architecture program at College of DuPage