By Tim Swanson | June 19, 2019
Courtney Masters is a Sophomore studying Computer Science - Digital Media B.A. She is currently most interested in a career in web development or software engineering after she graduates in 2022.
Courtney heard about Taylor’s Computer Science department from her older brother and other friends. “I was particularly attracted to the digital media program because it incorporated design and film along with programming.” She chose to go to Taylor after falling in love with the Taylor community, and after hearing that it had a well designed Computer Science program.
Coming into Taylor’s Computer Science program with “absolutely no Computer Science experience”, Courtney was able to quickly get up to speed through hard work and her teachers' unassuming teaching. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially early on. The hardest lesson in CS for me to learn was to admit when I didn’t understand something, it’s easy to just nod your head and pretend that you get it when you don’t. That will hurt you down the road.”
You won’t have to be on campus long to hear that Taylor promotes intentional community. Courtney loves how Taylor encourages students to foster good relationships with everyone they interact with, from those they live with, to their academic peers and professors. She also appreciates how Taylor’s residence and academic community is not divided by age. “Having the opportunity to pour into younger friends while being mentored by older friends is a really unique aspect of community that Taylor fosters.”
Besides learning to avoid 8 AM classes when at all possible, one of the most valuable lessons Courtney has gotten out of Taylor so far is to “take life by the reigns.” Instead of passively waiting for opportunities to come, take initiative. “Apply for a job that you might not get or ask someone you don’t really know that well out to coffee, you might become great friends!”
A double major in math and cybersecurity, Alexander McFarland is a Sophomore planning to graduate in 2022.
From Louisville, Kentucky, Alexander chose to come to Taylor after hearing about it from his parents, who are both alumni. “I was impressed with the math and computer science departments here at Taylor. The wonderful community and spiritual devotion of students and professors made me decide Taylor was the right place for me.”
Cybersecurity is a growing field full of research opportunities that Alexander would like to participate in. Alexander is also studying math, because “it is a beautiful, enjoyable, and powerful subject.” He is interested in a career in mathematics, cybersecurity for a 3 letter agency, or computational physics.
For Alex, “the extraordinary community of students and professors is one of my favorite things about Taylor.” Alexander loves the community of his wing, 1st West Wengatz, and the activities they do together. “Moreover,” he says, “the Taylor professors are exceptional teachers and interesting persons.”
After just one year at Taylor, Alexander has begun to grow from only a little experience in C++ into a computer scientist. “The CSE professors have done a great job thus far. I am excited to make much more progress as I learn from the students and faculty of the department in these next three years.”
Alexander encourages incoming students to embrace opportunities. “Four years is not much time but there is a lot of valuable stuff to do. Don’t just sit in your room and waste your time. Taylor University has a lot to offer and every student would do well to take full advantage of that.”
Drew Anderson is a double major in Math and Computer Science B.A. He plans to graduate in 2020, 3 years after starting college, and begin graduate school for math.
Bringing a substantial amount of credits and computer science education with him from high school, Drew was immediately well on his way in a computer science degree. The Computer Science department has ensured that he learn at an appropriate pace in the midst of his unconventional academic situation.
Like many who come to Taylor, Drew’s favorite aspect of Taylor is the community, “At Taylor, away from my family, I have experienced a community that has come around me like a family and gained friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.”
The most valuable lesson Drew has learned at Taylor is the importance of taking responsibility over time management. It’s important to ensure all work gets done, but it’s equally important to have time for rest.
Drew advises to never underestimate the importance of your work in class, “No matter how worthless something may seem, there will come a time where you will want to use it and need to know how to do it”. Additionally, he encourages not to forget how valuable a resource professors are, “they want to help you, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask for help.”
David Deng is a Junior, planning to finish his B.S. in Computer Science in 2021, after which he plans on going into graduate school, and then beginning a career in software development.
David is an international student from Beijing, China. He enjoys cooking and playing the piano. Being in America, he says that context is often assumed, which can make it difficult to understand conversations, but “it is often interesting for me to listen to what other people think and to see things from the perspective of an American.”
Despite the difficulties of cultural and language barriers, David found his curiosity for Computer Science well responded to. “I am grateful for kind encouragements and patient answers that many professors have given me.”
Travelling with the Center for Missions Computing to Ecuador, David’s team was able to work on management software for a Church there. “It was a great learning experience for me, not only in technology, but also in collaborating with other people in a big project; it was also encouraging to know that what we were building would provide a useful service for many people in that church.”
Adam Nichols is a Junior pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science - Cybersecurity. He plans to graduate in 2021.
Originally from Williamston, Michigan, Adam got some experience in Python and C in High School. He chose Taylor because “Taylor is one of the few Christian Schools that has such a strong CSE department, couple that with Taylor’s phenomenal community and the choice was a no-brainer for me.”
Adam loves the excitement of Cybersecurity, “it’s today’s real-life superpower. There are superheroes who use their power for good, and villains who use it for evil. I want to use my knowledge and skills to protect people from those trying to exploit them.” Adam currently leads TrojanSec, a cybersecurity club in the Computer Science department.
Adam’s favorite aspect of Taylor since coming to Taylor has been his floor culture, he lives in 2nd Bergwall, also known as Sigma Beta. In addition to studying Computer Science, Adam also runs in the Taylor track team. At Taylor, Adam has learned the value of balance, while the pursuit of excellence is good, “idolizing anything can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety, while neglecting them can throw your whole-person development off track.”
At Taylor, Adam has enjoyed the availability of opportunities offered as a CS major. In addition to leading TrojanSec, he worked on malware research with Lockheed Martin, and did an internship during the summer before his Junior year. His favorite class project has been creating a game engine from the ground up in COS 370, using it to make a Super Mario Bros clone from scratch.
Currently, Adam is deciding between careers in Software Development, Cybersecurity Research, and teaching Computer Science at a University.
Besides wanting to tell why Computer Scientists always mix up Christmas and Halloween (because DEC 25 == OCT 31), Adam encourages new students to be intentional about time management. “If you think an assignment will take you two hours, budget out four hours for it. That way, if you were right you have extra time, and if not you aren’t scrambling.”
Alison B. is a Senior, and plans to graduate with a B.A. in Computer Science in 2020.
After growing up as a TCK (third culture kid) in Iraq, Alison chose to study Computer Science at Taylor. “I chose Computer Science because I wanted to go into software development, and I enjoyed problem-solving and working with computers.” Alison had taken AP computer science, and had some experience with professional web development. “Taylor has a strong Computer Science program with classes in many different areas of CS, and has a focus on community, service, and missions, so I went there.”
Alison’s favorite aspect of Taylor University is that “the professors really care about you and don’t just want to help you learn; they also care about you personally and spiritually.”
As a female and TCK in a field that typically doesn’t have many others, Alison says it can sometimes be more difficult to connect, but “there are also quite a few other women and TCKs in the major here at Taylor that I’ve gotten to know well, and I feel like the professors are always looking out for me.”
Her favorite computer science project has been working on a platform for speakers of minority languages to collaborate on verifying translated recordings of the Bible with Wycliffe Associates. She plans on going into a career of software development for Christian nonprofits.
Alison believes that Taylor gave her a unique Computer Science education. “Since Taylor is a liberal arts school, I got to see my fellow CS majors in Bible classes, philosophy and ethics classes, and other settings beyond CS. It’s normal for the professors and students to talk about things far beyond computer science and to have more holistic relationships that aren’t just focused on classes. The professors care about more than just making you a good computer scientist, but also helping you become a person who will use computer science to help others and live a life that glorifies God. The farther I’ve gone in the computer science industry, the more I’ve come to appreciate this.”
To those just starting in Computer Science, Alison offers this encouragement: “It’s normal to feel stuck or confused. Computer science is all about problem-solving and organizing complexity, and that means you might have to bang your head against a problem for a while or do a lot of research before figuring out how to solve it. You’re not stupid or unqualified – even the most amazing professional software engineers I’ve worked with still get stuck and confused!”
Imani Muya is a Senior planning to graduate in 2020 with a double major in Computer Science: Digital Media B.A. and Film and Media Production B.A, she is currently most interested by a career in Web Development.
After growing up in Seattle and Tanzania, Imani chose to study both Digital Media and Film for the way their combination challenges and grows her in many disciplines.
When it comes to academic work, Imani emphasizes the importance of knowing when to stop. “There will be projects that you know that you could have done better on if you had more time, but sometimes that time isn’t available.” She also reminds that time for fun is important, though there are also those who need to spend less time on fun, and more on their studies, “you know who you are.”
Imani loves how the Computer Science community is built off collaborative learning. She especially encourages incoming students that there is no shame in having questions, they are the reason you are here. Through giving and receiving help, “you build a community and pretty soon Euler feels a little bit like home.”
An often hard-learned lesson is timing project work. “Starting the night before, then having things take longer than expected, getting stuck, getting help, and then submitting it 30 seconds before it is due is not the kind of high you want to get hooked on.” Even if you don’t expect a project to take long, unexpected delays are always worsened by impending deadlines, “it feels a lot better when you have time to let the project sit in your brain”.
Note: Several of these students have graduated since the writing of this article, and are now at graduate schools and/or pursuing full-time jobs.