Photo by Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography
Brandon Tighe’s circuitous path to earning three degrees from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering began amidst challenges and missteps, including homelessness and a two-year stint in prison. But today, he’s about to start his dream job as a research and design engineer at a Northern Colorado electric vehicle manufacturer.
The Denver native’s parents were convicted felons who tragically lost their lives to addiction. In his youth, Tighe also started down the path of substance abuse and crime, dropping out of high school and eventually finding himself incarcerated. It was in prison that he found a relationship with God and began to rebuild his life. Eventually, Tighe was accepted into a program where he learned to weld, and once he got out, he became a steelworker at a company where he met his first engineering mentor. After some careful research and a bit of prayer, he decided to dive in headfirst and pursue a career in engineering.
“Now I am 10 years clean, happily married, and have built a great life for my family and I,” said Tighe, 36, who will soon earn his master’s in mechanical engineering from CSU. He previously earned CSU bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.
For four years, Tighe has been a research assistant in the lab of Jianguo Zhao, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, doing cutting-edge research in biologically inspired robotics. “Dr. Zhao was an amazing mentor who constantly pushed me to work hard and be a better researcher,” Tighe said. “He also recognized and celebrated my successes and helped to build my confidence as a student and an engineer.”
Throughout his time earning engineering degrees and reaching the potential he always knew he had, Tighe leaned on his wife, Amanda: “She’s been my rock.” The two in fact supported each other as they both pursued education; Brandon worked full time in manufacturing and went to school part time while she earned a degree as an ultrasound professional. Together they navigated school, work, and Amanda also survived a bought with thyroid cancer.
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life or at CSU have required you to demonstrate courage?
Being a non-traditional student in my 30s has come with its own challenges. To top it off, struggling with depression and anxiety made for some pretty intimidating presentations and group projects. Although it has been difficult for me, I have always made it a point to push past my comfort zones and actively participate in presentations and outreach events, and I am proud to say that my classmates have always been exceptionally welcoming and great to work with.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
I came from a background where neither of my parents completed high school, much less college. After struggling with high school myself, I ended up quitting to pursue a job in construction. Although I always knew I had potential, in the back of my mind I questioned how much. Aside from the many relationships I have built, one of the most rewarding parts of my CSU experience was learning the extent of my potential and ability to succeed.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
I recommend new students take the time early on to set clear, concise educational and career goals and seek advisors and mentors to answer questions. I also recommend students start their journey with good organizational and time management tools. In my experience, getting ahead and staying ahead made for a much more manageable educational experience.