Student Spotlight: Erna Gevondyan
Major: Computer Science
Erna Gevondyan is building an impressive academic resume.
So far, she has earned both an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science from College of DuPage. By the end of 2013, she accumulated enough credits to transfer to the Illinois Institute of Technology to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in Applied Mathematics. She even landed an internship at Argonne National Laboratory.
“My relationship with the College grew since the day I stepped onto the campus,” she said. “Everyone was extremely supportive and helpful.”
Her accomplishments reflect her determination. What's even more amazing is that English is not her first language. Gevondyan was raised in Tbilisi, Georgia, a small post-Soviet country. After her parents divorced, she, her mom and her little sister moved in with her grandmother, who owned a business at the time. When the economy sagged, Gevondyan’s mom moved to the U.S. and found a job. In 2006, she was able to move Gevondyan and her sister to the U.S. as legal permanent residents.
“When I had first moved here, you can imagine the culture shock I experienced,” she said. “Although I had studied English grammar back at home, the spoken language seemed quite foreign. I didn’t understand what people were trying to say to me, and I was having an even harder time to make myself understood.”
One month after arriving, Gevondyan started classes at College of DuPage. Although she dreamed of becoming a computer programmer, she feared the language barrier would prevent her from understanding difficult scientific concepts. Instead, she chose graphic design and found a supportive environment with caring teachers.
But Gevondyan realized that she wanted to pursue her passion, so she switched to computer science.
“I’m really grateful for the fact that COD’s flexibility with the offered classes and the overall structure helped me realize my true academic passion. This was a very painless process, as opposed to going to an expensive art school and spending so much money for the tuition, and realizing that this is no longer the major one wants to pursue,” she said. “The professors’ doors are always open. I’m still keeping in touch with my former professors. For example, Professor (Tom) Carter encouraged me to apply for an internship at Argonne National Laboratory, which I miraculously got into.”
In 2012, Gevondyan decided to give back to the College by working as a peer tutor in the Learning Commons, where she continued for two years.
“Helping other students to succeed in their studies was a great way to say thanks to the College,” she said. “I loved my job as peer tutor. Knowing that my work had an impact on others motivates me even more toward succeeding in my own studies and helping others along the way.”
Gevondyan completed summer research on nuclear fuel materials at Argonne in 2013 and presented her results at a research seminar at Argonne. The results were drafted into a scientific paper nominated as an outstanding example of student writing for the COD student writing magazine, ESSAI. In addition, based on her excellent performance during the summer, she was hired as a coop student for the 2013 fall term at Argonne and was re-hired for fall 2014.
She is still working at Argonne and has now graduated from IIT.
“I’m definitely happy with my choice of going there for reasons such as the academic vigor. The overall transfer itself and the application of the COD classes to the IIT curriculum in the Computer Science program was very painless. “I have been involved in a lot of interesting work on the risk analysis and safety practices in the power production and generation industry around the world, so it feels like I’m making a difference in the world, which is every college student’s dream to begin with.”
Gevondyan would like to continue with her studies and eventually receive a Ph.D. in computer science.
“My goal is to research and create ways to develop software which can improve people’s experiences with computers, and perhaps share my knowledge and experience with future generations,” she said. “I want to make something that will have an impact on how we perceive solving problems in our daily lives.
“COD was really amazing to me. It was helpful in every way, starting with little things, like letting me print my paper for free because I had forgotten my wallet and the paper was due in 10 minutes, all the way to huge things like giving me amazing friends, hiring me as a student worker, and opening up new professional and academic connections.
“In particular, I’d like to thank some of the professors and the staff who have helped me along the way, like Dr. Tom Carter, Rae Maslana and Anthony Lenard, who sent recommendations to Argonne on my behalf and have been supportive in many other ways. Also, I’m thankful to my former professors who welcomed me in their office for various questions or just to say hello, like Julia diLiberti, Mary Newberg, Gerry Krusinski, Beatrice Jaynes, Caroline Soo and Jim Bradley.”
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