Updated: Jun 1, 2020
I could not be prouder to graduate from Texas A&M this weekend! I have officially earned my Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering, with minors in Cybersecurity and Computer Science. I walked the stage today with classmates, friends, and colleagues, and graduated summa cum laude as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and an Honors Fellow.
And as long as I'm here bragging about myself, I am very proud of the fact that I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Grades are not everything, and I know they mean less than the skills and experience I gained from classes, extracurriculars, internships, and peer relations, but I'd like to believe my GPA reflects the time, effort, and dedication that I put towards my studies. As I look back on the classes that challenged me, the professors that used unusual teaching styles, the long hours in labs with projects that felt like they would never work, I know that I was able to conquer all of that, and come out a resilient student with more problem-solving skills than I began with.
Each part of this degree means so much for me, because I know all the hard work put in at night, on weekends, and in the classroom to earn each one.
I decided early on to minor in Computer Science because I knew that technology was going to matter no matter what job I pursued, and that any leg up knowing more about how computers work and how to code in different languages would be valuable. Each time I started a new CS class, I questioned my decision in the first week of class. The syllubi looked hard. The professors sounded tough. The projects sounded long. The material didn't seem to come as naturally to me as other classes. But each time I told myself that I could at least give it a try. And almost without exception, I always found those classes the most fascinating. The material was hard. The professors were tough. The projects were long. But I think they taught me some of the most valuable skills that I will continue to use well beyond graduation. Special thanks to Ellen Dangtran for sticking it though those rough classes with me (except for the one time we dropped 313 after getting a 13-page assignment on the first day.... with everything else going on, it was probably for the best that semester).
The Cybersecurity minor was a later addition, but evolved as I discovered my passion for cyber-physical security. The classes I took my senior year to finish up this minor were some of my favorites. My Intro to Cybersecurity class was intense, but the hands-on skills I learned provided an incredibly important foundation that I know I will fall back on. As with many computer skills, I believe that practicing a skill is what teaches you about a concept more than reading ever can. I am grateful for this class for forcing me to learn things through hands-on cybersecurity practice. I never thought I would take a policy class, but Cyber Law & Policy with Dr. DeWitte was one of the most fascinating classes I took. I never imagined that learning about laws, why they were passed, and how they are used would interest me so much, but this is one class I wish I could take over and over until I became an expert in it. As with everything else, I may have to find ways for hands-on practice with the policy side before I really become proficient. This nascent field of cybersecurity is incredibly fascinating to me, and I can't wait to learn more as my career develops.
The Undergraduate Research Scholar distinction recognizes specifically my undergraduate thesis, but for me also speaks to the other publications I've authored as well as the research projects that are yet to be published.
Finally, the Honors distinction recognizes my dedication to the University Honors program throughout my four years of undergrad, my commitment to taking honors classes as part of my general studies and major-specific curriculum, and my engagement on campus with guest speakers, community service opportunities, and networking with other honors students.
As proud as I am of these achievements, I know that I would not have reached this point without the support of my family, friends, classmates, and mentors. My parents answered my calls for every question I had, large or small. My friends supported me through my most stressful test weeks, and I am especially grateful to my roommates who helped me unwind after long days and made sure I made the most of my time in College Station. I learned as much from my classmates as my professors sometimes, and I'm grateful that I had so many amazing people to go though the electrical engineering journey with me. I am grateful to my mentors, both in school and outside. Many thanks to Dr. Kate Davis, Ms. Windy Lala, Mr. Warren Ashford, Mr. Harsh Juneja, Dr. Mindy Koudelka, Mrs. Ginger Wright, Mr. Robert Erbes, and many more for the lessons they taught me, both technically and professionally.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not thank all of the people and organizations who supported my tuition. I would not have chosen to attend Texas A&M without the gift and encouragement from Mr. Craig Brown, and his support is something that I can never hope to repay, but pray that I will one day be able to pass forward. I am grateful for my donors to the Texas A&M Foundation, the President's Endowed Scholar fund, the Parker County Aggie Mom's Club, as well as to IEEE, IEEE Power and Energy Society, ERCOT, Lockheed Martin, the National Merit Foundation, and FS-ISAC.
Thanks and Gig 'Em Aggies! I hope that one day I am able to give back to help the next classes of students have the same opportunities that I was given!