“Do today what others won’t, so tomorrow you can do what others can’t”
It’s been close to two years since I moved to the United States from India to attend the Honors College at Florida International University (FIU) majoring in Computer Science. Since I wrote “I am a Freshman, so what?” last year, I have been recognized as the Sophomore Leader of the Year, awarded the Resident Assistant Community Development Award, nominated for Student Employee of the Year and Resident Assistant of the Year, sung for the University Singers (choir), traveled to 7 new states and learned a new instrument.
In Summer 2018, I was appointed as the President of the Academic Success Initiative (ASI), the tutoring and mentoring program offered at the FIU School of Computing and Information Sciences. I led a team of 20 tutors and 10 trainees who tutored over 500 undergraduates in CS/ IT. Within the supervision of my mentor and ASI Director, Ms. Myrian Herlle, I had the liberty to define the activities of the organization, revise the policies and attain partnerships with student organizations. I was heavily involved in designing the recruiting process and interviewing potential candidates. One of the more important tasks I was able to accomplish was to instill a sense of community among the tutors and student assistants.
Over the year, I experienced firsthand the impact our organization was making on students by boosting their self-confidence and improving grades, thereby increasing graduation and retention rates. I also had the opportunity to attend several symposiums and conferences about higher education as well as represent ASI at resource fairs and departmental meetings.
In Fall 2018, I started working as a Resident Assistant (RA) at the Honors Hall overseeing 40 freshmen students in the Honors College. The position started with two weeks of rigorous training in conflict resolution, emergency management, personal support, and administrative tasks. As part of the position, I was on on-call duty once a week responding to emergency situations and administrative concerns overnight and weekends. We also participated in RA Seminars bi-weekly learning about topics such as Diversity, Inclusivity, Self Identity, and Intersectionality. I attained transferable skills such as Customer Service, Empathy, Crisis Response, Event Planning, Budget Management, Leadership, Service and Public Speaking.
The highlight of the position was the ability to connect residents, find similar interests, embrace differences and build a close-knitted community around it. The different strategies I used over the year included personalized door tags, forming WhatsApp and Snapchat Groups, attending events on and off campus with residents. My community traditions catered to their needs with hosting programs such as Potluck Dinner, Game Night, Movie Night, Resume Workshop, and Door Decoration Contest. One step towards getting to know them and genuinely caring about them was reciprocated with ten steps towards gaining their trust, respect, and friendship. I was recognized as the Community Engager of the Month and nominated for Resident Assistant of the Month in September 2018. My supervisors Josh Bell and Gabby Smith provided me with limitless guidance and support throughout the year and helped me discover my potential. At the end of the year, I was awarded the Resident Assistant Community Development Award and was nominated for the Resident Assistant of the Year.
Furthermore, I was selected to attend the Florida Resident Assistant Seminar (FRAS) at Jacksonville University, FL where I networked with RAs from all over the state of Florida and made lasting connections. I also had the opportunity to present my program “Every Piece Matters” on residential engagement and community building talking about my own experience and organizing interactive breakout sessions.
In Spring 2019, I was elected as the President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter at FIU. ACM is world’s largest educational and computing society which sets the standards for research in computing, and ACM FIU has the world’s most Outstanding Student Chapter Activities. Leading ACM was a major milestone I had set for myself during my freshman year which I achieved earlier than expected. Due to changes in leadership, the organization was close to inactivity with the only event being MangoHacks.
I stepped down from being President of ASI to focus my energy and time to revive ACM. With the help of my executive board, ACM Advisory Council and Faculty Advisor, Steve Luis, we organized workshops in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Interview Prep led by SCIS Faculty, volunteered at the FIU High School Programming Competition, and launched our Undergraduate Research Access Program. We changed our marketing strategies, developed partnerships with student organizations and companies, thereby increasing membership by 25% and attendance by 50%. All the hard work paid off when our ACM Chapter was recognized for Outstanding Chapter Activities worldwide for the 2018–2019 ACM Student Chapter Excellence Award.
Moving forward, I was selected as one of the 100 students from 700 applicants to attend JP Morgan Chase & Co’s Sophomore Edge Program in Chicago, IL. The program aimed at providing Sophomores in Technology an early insight in roles at JPMC and train them professionally and technically. The 3-day conference consisted of tech talks, workshops, and networking fairs. Some of the speakers included Malcolm Johnson, Anthony Chan, Melissa Butler, Jacqueline Campbell, and Crystal L. Bailey. I attended sessions on Agile Engineering, Machine Learning, and Business Etiquettes. I also had the chance to explore the city with my cohort.
Following my passion in music, I auditioned for University Singers (FIU Choir) and was selected as a Tenor. I learned how to play the piano at the age of 5 and guitar at the age of 10. I had always been fascinated by singers and concert performances which led to teaching myself how to sing and starting a YouTube Channel The Desi NRI covering Bollywood Songs and writing my own songs. My first concert as a singer was the “Let there be light” at the FIU School of Music in the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, Miami, FL. I had the opportunity to sing a solo for the Urdu composition Zikr by A.R. Rahman. Over the year, I performed several concerts including the Messiah Sing-in, Mozart Requiem and American Voices. I also learned how to play the Indian flute to diversify my musical skills.
I also volunteered at the first ever WiCSCON organized by Women in Computer Science at FIU. I am grateful for my mentor and WiCS President Alejandra Massuh of giving me this opportunity to be an ally and advocate for all genders and minorities in technology.
Now that I have completed my sophomore year, significantly improved my leadership skills, had new experiences and made a lot of connections, I ask myself “I am a Sophomore, now what?”
For my junior year, I will be returning as a Resident Assistant and taking the honors course “Lessons in Life and Leadership” by Dr. Modesto A. Maidique, President Emeritus, FIU. I am thankful for all my mentors, sponsors, advisors, supervisors, friends and family for supporting me through this journey and I look forward to next year.