School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Student Spotlight

Senior computer science student, Rachel Forbes talks about her experience at WSU EECS

Interview by Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
June 10, 2016

Rachel Forbes, senior computer science student
Rachel Forbes, computer science student President of the Linux Users’ Group, Co-Chair of the ACM-W, Vice President of VCEA Coordinating Council, Secretary of the ACM, Organizer of the Crimson Code Hackathon

Why did you decide to come to WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science?

When you look for a college you want to find something that fits you, somewhere that upholds your ideals and that can help to develop you as a whole person, a place that pushes you and inspires you. I thought that choosing a place that was friendly and open would help me get more involved and help me make the most out of my college experience.

I visited all the schools that I was accepted into and did not feel the same sense of belonging that I immediately felt when I visited WSU. The camaraderie here is like family; I did not feel that anywhere else. When people say “GO COUGS” they don’t mean, “We’re better than everybody else.” It’s more like, “We are family, and we help each other out.”

How does that camaraderie play out at EECS?

The first thing I noticed is how encouraging the faculty are. You really get to know your professors, and they really get to know you. They help you not only with coursework, they help you with resume building, they help you get involved, and they help you get jobs.

Example?

A faculty member gave me an amazing recommendation for a job that I was applying for in Israel. I wound up getting this job and spent two months in Israel at an international technology camp teaching robotics to children of all ages as well as children on the Autistic spectrum. It was a life changing experience that I still think about every day.

Explain what the atmosphere is like here among the student body?

The school fosters a collaborative environment, and we pick up on it. The emphasis on helping your peers and studying together is for real. For so many classes, we get in the ACM room and study together. Teachers poke their heads in to give us food or help us. We will be studying for one of their tests and they will give us tips and tricks and help us outside of class time.

Where is the balance between collaboration and competition?

In engineering it is so extremely important to know how to work with other people. Some places are competitive to an extreme, and the collaboration is lost. Of course, it is important to be able to compete. Here, the emphasis is on collaboration so that when we are competing against each other it is in a friendly manner. It is for the good of our education—to make us better programmers, better communicators, better leaders, and not just be the programmer in the dark corner.

At this point, having been at EECS for three years, would you choose to come here if you had it to do all over again?

Absolutely, I don’t regret it one bit. I have had so many opportunities to learn and discover what I am truly passionate about within computer science. What a lot of freshman do not understand is how much variety there is in computer science. This is why we have so many awesome clubs. Yeah, being a programmer for Google is great, but that is just one option. There are so many career paths to choose from. This school does not put everyone in the same box and spit out a bunch of cookie cutter developers. This school encourages different ideas and different people that can fit in all sorts of places.

You are involved in a lot of student clubs. Tell me about our student clubs, and why they are so important?

Some context, when I came to WSU I was not very motivated to join student clubs because I really wanted to focus on my class work. However, during the end of my first year I started to see everyone always going to club meetings and club leaders would come into my CPTS 121 and 122 classes and constantly announce club events. I finally went to a few club meetings at the end of my first year and really liked it. The people were friendly and welcoming, and I learned a lot! I quickly found myself getting very involved in the leadership of clubs like The Linux Users’ Group. Through this, I finally realized that going to college, especially majoring in computer science or engineering, it’s not just about going to class and getting good grades, it’s about getting involved. Getting involved helps you meet new people with similar passions and through this you have the opportunity to work on a lot of different side projects as well as get collaborative and leadership skills. I have found that employers look very highly on students that get involved.

What do you have to say to people considering an engineering degree?

For any engineering degree you have to work really hard, and there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. But if you know you want to be in this field, and you know this is what you love, you should not give up. Keep working hard, keep getting involved, keep asking for help and you will make it. If you give up after one or two fails you are ruining a really great opportunity.