Matthew Reilly ’13, social work and psychology, took a roundabout route to UMBC: after graduating from Townsend Harris High School in Queens, New York, he worked various jobs and took classes as several universities before enlisting in the army in 2005, with the hopes that it would help him pay for college.
When he was injured in service and sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Reilly discovered a passion that eventually led him to UMBC. When other injured soldiers arrived at the hospital, Reilly was often the one to talk with them and tell them about the services at the hospital. Those experiences eventually led him to pursue dual degrees in psychology and social work at UMBC.
Before coming to UMBC, Reilly earned his an associate degree from Montgomery College. When he enrolled in 2009, he had a difficult transition. He says that he had difficulty reading because of his brain injuries, and his patience with other students was short. He tried to strike a balance between playing down his status as a veteran and talking about it.
During Reilly’s last few months at the community college, Esther Schwartz-McKinzie, a professor of English who had grown interested in veterans’ issues, produced a documentary, In Their Own Words, about student veterans there. Reilly is one of a dozen veterans featured in the film, and in it he sums up his attitude toward college.
“I have class to go to, I have homework to do, I have reading to do, I have an assignment to do,” he says on screen. “That’s my mission. Those are my goals.”
Reilly is now in his second semester at UMBC, and will graduate with a degree in social work and psychology next spring. He hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in psychotherapy.
Reilly’s story appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 1 in a story entitled “An Ex-Soldier Finds a New Mission.”