CSpotlight Journey to Love the U of M

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

My sister went to the University of Minnesota a few years ago. I would go on campus with her often and it just kind of clicked, like something that resonates with you, especially the “Driven to Discover” motto. I also participated in two summer camps at the university when I was in high school. One of them was under Professor Gini. It was a camp for female and non-binary high school students interested in computer science, which first sparked my interest. That was the first setting where somebody was teaching me about computer science. It was exciting and I knew that's what I wanted to pursue in college. Especially because of that U of M camp, I had exposure to the campus and I liked it here. The second summer camp I did was more of a STEM camp in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), which solidified my excitement to come here.

How did you become interested in computer science? What are your specific interests within the field?

I started interning in software engineering after my last year of high school. I interned at SPS Commerce, which is a software company in Minneapolis. I knew I wanted to pursue computer science and I was already enrolled in CSE. My internship really solidified that computer science is what I want to do and I realized that I’m pretty good at it. I knew that this is something that I could succeed in and that I could help whatever team I was working on. I think that exposure made me more excited to be at the U of M.

Congratulations on earning the Bather Family Scholarship! How will this scholarship impact your academic and extracurricular work?

I was originally planning to go to the U of M for three years for computer science because I could finish the degree in that time frame. When I received the Bather Family Scholarship, I wanted to attend the fourth year to explore more fields. That's why I added the data science major. I also realized that I liked statistics so I added that as a minor, which I would not be able to do without this scholarship.

Knowing that you have someone who believes in you and wants to see you succeed helps build a lot more confidence. Whenever I have a bad day, that serves as a good reminder and I feel a strong sense of the CSE community knowing that the scholarship committee has been so supportive. The scholarship has one recipient a year and the donors invest their all into that recipient. I’m so incredibly grateful. I know that I will want to keep in touch with them for many years.

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

I started when I was in high school as a Software Engineer Intern at SPS Commerce and have continued in that role for the past four years. I will soon be working full-time there in June. It is beneficial because I am familiar with the code bases and the projects that I work on. At the same time, I can improve my programming skills and learn more about the infrastructure and software that we use without having to relearn a whole new software and product. I have been grateful to be on a team that backs me up and supports me. They've been kind enough to let me work there part-time and they've been amazing about working around my school schedule. I love where I work and the culture and the people there have always been supportive. I can’t picture myself anywhere else.

Are you involved in any student groups? What inspired you to get involved? 

During my first two years, I was involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) specifically on Team Tech. It’s a group of about 10 students who work with an industrial partner to complete a project that provides business value and encourages the team’s interests. During the two years I was in SWE, we collaborated with John Deere. Each year, we worked on improving the maintenance of one of their machines. At the end of the project, we presented at the SWE national conference. I was fortunate enough to represent my team by presenting our project in 2021. It was really exciting because our team placed second nationally that year. It was awesome being able to collaborate with other students, especially those from underrepresented groups in computer science.

In addition to that, I was a CSE Ambassador. There is a mentorship program where I would help pair mentors and mentees. I have been a mentor myself and it was really rewarding to be able to support freshman students and to help them figure out what they want to do here, and try to encourage them to explore more in their areas of interest. Because work and school take up most of my time, I decided not to continue with those groups. However, I am still a member of Tau Beta Pi, which is an engineering honor society on campus.

What do you hope to contribute to the computer science community at the University?

I resonate with the “Driven to Discover” and “Come Curious” mottos at the U of M. I always want any interaction that I have with anyone here at CSE to reflect that I’m a curious person and that I’m motivated to learn. I want to inspire that in other people, specifically that's why I like the mentorship program because I like to encourage others to explore their areas of interest. Even if it's not necessarily what's being taught in class or the program, I try to encourage students to always look for ways to gear their education toward their interests. I believe that you are always learning. No matter what age, you never stop learning. That’s part of the reason why I love the U of M.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

Always be a little lenient with yourself and not worry so much about a specific assignment or class. Try not to lose sight of the bigger picture - you are here to learn what you want to learn. You're here because you are focusing on a specific field that you're interested in, and you should gear it toward your interests. If that means taking less time for something that doesn't interest you, you can spend it on something that does. That is what I found very helpful. I didn’t fully embrace that until my last year at the U of M., I think that is useful to know at the beginning and to not lose sight of.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be working full-time starting in June at SPS Commerce, which is where I have been interning. I am very excited! I am mostly going to be doing backend work and some user interface work. Additionally, I am interested in coming back to the U of M. I've been exploring different graduate programs because I knew that I wanted to continue school, and I couldn’t find the one that clicked with me until recently. I heard about the software engineering master’s, which requires a year of full-time work experience. I plan to pursue that program after one year of working. I'm hoping to do that part-time while I work full-time. The years went by quickly in college, partly because of the pandemic, so I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.

Are there any additional experiences you had that you would like to highlight?

I’ve always felt so supported in this college and I genuinely think that the U of M is one of a kind. The faculty cares so much and every interaction that I’ve had with administration and advisors has been so wonderful. Despite being a large major where you might not have as many faculty to students, it doesn't ever feel like that. I remember wondering if the U of M would be the right fit for me because it's so big, but my sister talked to me about how it feels tight-knit once you're in your major. I have definitely experienced that in my time here by getting to know my fellow students and faculty well. I think that's incredible at such a prestigious university that’s also a research institution.