New UTC computer science graduate Whitney St. Charles calls her acceptance to Carnegie Mellon University “the realization of a dream.” Her graduate work there will combine technology with fine art to produce artifacts intended to entertain, inform and inspire an audience. “It’s practically the Holy Grail of computing,” St. Charles said. “Getting into CMU isn’t a foregone conclusion for anybody; they have their pick of the best from all over the country.”
CMU is ranked 12th overall in Ph.D. programs, 7th in the College of Engineering and 2nd in Computer Science and Engineering according to US News and World Reports. Not only did this prestigious institution choose Whitney– her husband, Jesse, a December 2007 UTC graduate will pursue his doctoral degree at CMU in Computation, Society, and Organization in the School of Computer Science.
“I will look at organizations, societies, companies, really any complex systems and work to better understand it through computational analysis and modeling,” Jesse said.
After he finishes his work at CMU, Jesse would like to find an industry or government research position before he moves into academia. His work has already been nationally published in an MSNBC.com story citing Jesse’s research in swarm intelligence. Read the article at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23888902/.
Moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will be a new experience for Whitney and Jesse, both natives of Chattanooga.
“This is going to be a major transition for the two of us. However, our experiences at UTC have shown us how to take advantage of every opportunity,” Whitney said.
Whitney’s past blends nicely with her plans for the future. In high school, she enjoyed entertaining others with stand-up comedy and improv. She played weddings and special events as a member of a string ensemble. Her artwork also provided a creative outlet.
“By day I may be a mild-mannered computer science student, but in my spare minutes I am honing my drawing skills through practice, classes, and countless online tutorials. Otherwise I am a very organized and neat individual, but my art materials are often strewn through every room of my house for easy access. I had always hoped for a career in Entertainment Technology, but I felt dwarfed by the competition,” Whitney said.
Career opportunities for Whitney will emerge as her graduate program schedules networking opportunities with prospective employers at Google, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Apple and a required internship.
“Many students graduate and then sign on with the company they have already formed a relationship with, though I was happy to learn that most students have several choices about where they end up,” Whitney said.
While Whitney calls the computer science program at UTC “solid,” and “getting better all the time,” she admits feeling initially conflicted with her decision.
“When I was first looking for an undergraduate institution, UTC wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. My siblings had both been accepted into Ivy League schools, and my educators at Girls Preparatory School definitely urged the student body to “aim high.” But I fell in love with the boy across the street, and decided that perhaps staying here and going to UTC didn’t sound that bad after all. Of course all of my friends were very skeptical. They worried that I wouldn’t be able to see out my full potential. I worried a bit, too. I blush to think of all that, remembering how naïve we all were about college… it’s a wonder that any of us ended up in the right place.
“The truth is that college is entirely what you make of it… whether you’re at Harvard or UTC. If you walk into your college determined to prove yourself and your abilities, then you will succeed. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
For Jesse, the size of the computer science department at UTC allowed him to better know his professors and allows professors devote more personal attention to students.
“UTC has all the resources needed to give you the opportunities that larger universities provide, without the cost. Professors at UTC are ready and waiting to mentor students and to help them to achieve their goals. For me, I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t have the success that I am currently enjoying without my experience at UTC,” Jesse said.