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April 2, 2014
Students studying computer science and information systems at Northwest Missouri State University are learning not only from their course instructors and peers on campus but from working professionals who know what it takes to be successful in the field.
The mentorship program is funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant the computer science and information systems program received in 2011. The grant is helping Northwest provide 26 S-STEM scholarships to students pursuing baccalaureate degrees in computer science or interactive digital media with a computer science emphasis. It also provides students with extensive mentoring by faculty, peers and industry professionals.
“Research shows that individuals who are mentored have better self-esteem, are more satisfied with their careers and are promoted faster,” said Dr. Carol Spradling, associate professor of mathematics, computer science and information systems at Northwest. “Our goal is to connect the NSF S-STEM scholars with industry mentors who will guide them through their college careers. We are fortunate to have a group of committed industry mentors who want to share their knowledge with our NSF S-STEM scholars.”
Each scholar is paired with an industry computing professional who acts as mentor throughout his or her college career. Mentors help the students engage in the computing field, share a window into their job and provide an external point of view aside from the student’s academic advisor. The mentors also assist the students with developing technical and soft skills and providing support through one-on-one visits or electronic communication.
Recently, the scholarship recipients had the opportunity to meet and talk with their mentors over lunch at a local restaurant.
One of those students, Grace Horvath, a senior computer science major from St. Louis, said she enjoyed asking career-related questions of the mentors and listening to their advice about advancing at a company. Horvath is paired with Emily Stinger, a web developer at Gallup in Omaha, Neb.
“Having someone who is in the industry as a resource will help me avoid rookie mistakes, and hopefully their advice and guidance will set me on a successful career path,” Horvath said.
Thuy Copeland, an iOS Developer for DSI Global in Kansas City, serves as one of the mentors. She graduated from Northwest in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in interactive digital media with a visual imaging concentration.
Recalling how Spradling mentored her as a student and helped her grow professionally, Copeland said she jumped at the chance to mentor Northwest students, like her mentee, Josh Rodriguez, a senior computer science major from Independence.
“I hope to share some of my stories and offer Josh practical, usable advice for starting his career,” Copeland said. “I expect him to make mistakes – just not the same ones I did. I also look forward to hearing his perspective on industry issues. There are aspects of technology where he's already given me a fresh take on an old issue.”
In addition to Spradling, Northwest computing faculty involved with the program are Merry McDonald, Gary, McDonald, Na Li, David Monismith and Michael Rogers.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468