Reilly Freret has had to overcome many obstacles to reach his graduation day at Washington University in St. Louis.
Freret enrolled in the McKelvey School of Engineering in 2016 to study computer science after transferring from Arizona State University. After struggling with substance use disorder during his first few years, he took a leave of absence from the university in 2018 to see to his health.
“Things fell apart a little more decisively around Thanksgiving of my senior year, and I went to inpatient treatment with the idea that I’d be back in the spring," Freret said.
Things didn’t go as planned, however, and Freret took a three-year leave to focus on his mental health. He returned to McKelvey Engineering in the fall of 2021 and will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in computer science this May.
“The school makes it easy and comfortable to take and return from leave,” Freret said. “These last two semesters have certainly been my best academically, and I'm the healthiest I’ve ever been. I’m glad I took that time away and was able to come back.”
Freret credited the staff in Undergraduate Student Services with helping him stay connected to the school and his studies.
“I kept in touch with administration while I was away, especially once I realized I wasn't going to be prepared to come back to school for quite a while,” he said. “Melanie Osborn especially was unbelievably supportive and instrumental with all that.”
Osborn is a senior assistant dean for undergraduate student services.
Upon returning, Freret found many ways to reconnect with the WashU community. He was a teaching assistant for the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and helped found a student group for others going through recovery.
“I do feel good about my academic performance, but the group has certainly been the most positive thing I’ve done on campus,” Freret said. “We’ve gotten great support from the school, and it’s a totally safe, private space.”
As for his graduation plans, Freret plans to move to New York to work for a financial services company, but his ultimate goal is to use his education to continue helping people.
“Ultimately, I want to develop impactful software and make tools that help more than they hurt,” he said.