Caleb Tallquist named winner of the 2020 Computer Science Senior Prize

I hope my fellow students will remember that I enjoyed learning alongside them. There were plenty of things that I was able to pick up quickly, and I was happy to share that knowledge with others. I loved trying to do so in a way that made the most sense to them.

“A high achiever who is unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.”  This is how Kirsten Weir described the imposter phenomenon (often called imposter syndrome) in an American Psychological Association article about graduate students published in November of 2013.  Dr. Suzanne Imes and Dr. Pauline Rose Clance first described the imposter phenomenon in a 1978 paper titled “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.” The characteristics associated with the imposter phenomenon have been subsequently been observed in many diverse people and environments. 

Given the definition, perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Caleb Tallquist identifies himself as having experienced the imposter phenomenon, even though he was named this year’s recipient of the Computer Science Senior Prize, awarded to the outstanding graduating senior majoring in Computer Science. Caleb found the challenging topics and concepts found in Computer Science much clearer once he understood he wasn’t the only one in his classes who needed to ask questions to help him understand the material, .  To help him overcome imposter syndrome, he learned to take advantage of the fact that Hope professors truly want to help you succeed, and that asking questions allows them to help you understand what you don’t already know.

I started the program my sophomore Fall semester, and for some reason that made me feel like I was really behind or had just fumbled my way through 225 and didn’t actually know what I needed to in order to succeed. Little did I know, most others felt similarly, and I was rather well-prepared for where I needed to be.

As with many other Computer Science students, Caleb came to Hope without any previous background in CS, since his K-12 schools didn’t offer any CS courses.  He started as an Engineering student, but quickly realized that hardware was NOT his friend.  On the other hand, he found programming Arduinos to be super interesting, and this was the part of the first Engineering course where he did his best work.  Caleb took Business Computing during the spring of his first year and found the programming that goes into developing cell formulas to be similarly alluring. At that point he decided to give Computer Science a try.  Even though at times he doubted himself through the first couple of courses, he worked hard and excelled.  He found software design patterns to be really fascinating as he progressed through the curriculum. He was thrilled to learn that there are so many ways to make applications flexible in the way that best fits the project, such as learning to use composition over inheritance or using patterns such as the Decorator, Strategy, and Factory patterns.

Caleb has a lot of interests outside of Computer Science, including an affinity for sports; in particular, Hope College basketball was an important part of his time at Hope.  He was part of the Dew Crew, serving as president during his junior and senior years, and held the distinction of being the only “3 man” who did not reside in Durfee Hall.  You might be wondering “what’s a ‘3 man’?”  This is a member of the Dew Crew responsible for hanging up a carboard Mountain Dew bottle on the side wall of the DeVos Fieldhouse gymnasium each time one of the Hope sharpshooters connects on a 3 pointer.  In addition to his work with the Dew Crew, he was also a part of Nykerk Song Morale for the class of 2020 for two years.

That’s Caleb with the megaphone!

These extracurricular interests meshed well with the liberal arts education Caleb excelled within during his studies at Hope.  He believes his liberal arts education made him a well-rounded, successful student and will certainly contribute to his future success. Learning about content areas that don’t revolve around computers and thinking about the world as a whole has enabled him to understand the role of software engineering in a global context, which he thinks will be crucial in his career. 

While originally his dream job was to be sabermetrics analyst at ESPN, he currently plans to either be some sort of senior developer or maybe a software or systems architect who gets to deal with code but also design of databases and systems.  In the long term, he is considering getting a masters degree in order to be able to teach introductory programming either at a college part-time or be a guest lecturer.

Regardless of where the future takes him, we are proud of the young man Caleb grew into during his time at Hope, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.  Congratulations, Caleb, on being named the 2020 Computer Science Senior Prize award winner!

About Caleb

Favorite CS Topics
Functional Programming and Software Design Patterns

Best advice for other students
Harvest relationships with faculty. There is so much wisdom to be found in the experiences of faculty. Also, try to find a way to either job shadow or maybe just have coffee with people who do what you want to do.

Breaking Stereotypes
I am a really talkative person, and I really enjoy communicating with others.

I despise sitting at a computer for hours a day and not talking to anybody

On programming for everyone
I think everyone should learn some kind of programming. Whether it be Visual Basic (Excel macros), Python, or HTML and CSS, I think the role computers play in our world makes learning some form of programming very useful. Whether it means being able to help maintain a website, write a script to automate some of your work, have the tools to bring a startup idea to life, or even just have a fun little hobby on the side, programming can be useful to just about anyone who uses a computer.

Jori Gelbaugh (’20) honored with Computer Science Department Service Award

Jori Gelbaugh ’20 approaches everything in her life the same way – with passion and by putting her whole self into her work and relationships.  Her passion allowed her to pursue and excel in a variety of activities during her years at Hope College.  Some of these activities are familiar to many in the Hope Community, such as participating in Hope traditions as a Pull moraler, serving as the sophomore Nykerk orator in 2017, and coaching oration for two years.  Academically she expanded her horizons through summer research in the Computer Science department, studied abroad in Madrid, and served as a consultant in the Center for Leadership on 3 different projects.  Her second major in Global Studies along with an interest in Graphic Design and the liberal arts tradition at Hope have prepared Jori well for her career as a software development consultant with Atomic Object.

The departmental faculty chose to honor Jori with the departmental service award upon her graduation based on the ways she provided consistent leadership both in and beyond the classroom. She served admirably as a Teaching Assistant, a mentor for women in Computer Science, and a promoter of the department to prospective students. The faculty praised her for bringing a consistent sense of joy, enthusiasm, and eagerness to be excellent to the community of CS students and faculty.  Jori notes that her faith played a large role in her success as she sought God in a lot of what she did.

Her dedication to service is also reflected in her plans for the future.  Jori classifies herself as a “dreamer” who has a LOT of dreams.  She plans to pair her passion for international social justice and humanitarian issues with software development.  Although she’s not entirely sure what that might entail, she has begun investigating possible companies and projects that would allow her to pursue this passion. She plans to use her voice to positively impact people, through coding, public speaking, writing, or any other opportunity that presents itself.  Continually connecting with God and a diversity of people, ideas, and places is a major goal of hers.

Jori’s path to studying Computer Science is different than you might expect.  For one thing, she doesn’t like Mountain Dew (although she does admit to occasionally drinking obscene amounts of coffee, which played more of a role in her success than she’d care to admit!)  She also admits that she probably doesn’t know how to fix other people’s printer problems, and that if she does, its likely only due to the help of Google!

Jori was interested in a wide range of subjects in high school and considered studying Communication, Psychology, Journalism, Political science, and Graphic Design at Hope. She did take one Computer Science class in high school and didn’t enjoy it at all – not because it didn’t interest her, but because she thought you had to be a genius to understand it. Luckily, she took two introductory Computer Science classes her first semester at Hope and loved them!  Being able to use the words of code to solve complex problems in a creative way fascinated her, and the variety of problems that can be solved with software was very attractive.  There’s so much to learn, the field is always evolving, and the “rush” from creatively solving a perplexing problem with code makes the frustrating process of hunting for a pesky bug totally worth it to Jori!

Now she wants others to know that they don’t need to be a “genius” to learn how to code.  She notes that the majority of developers she’s talked with are definitely intelligent, but aren’t necessarily geniuses.  What sets them apart is their hunger for learning and a willingness to pursue answers to issues they don’t understand, and she thinks that’s more important in this field than being a “genius”. 

Outside of the classroom, Jori enjoys meeting new people and travelling, which means that she didn’t spend all her time in front of a computer screen (except maybe when there’s a project due soon in one of Dr. McFall’s classes!).  When asked to give advice for new students, she had lots of important nuggets, including:

  • Eat more of the cookie brownie things in Phelps while you’re still on meal plan
  • NEVER feed the squirrels
  • Riley Beach is highly underrated
  • Don’t let anyone, including yourself, cause you to feel guilty for taking time to rest … with that said, always make the effort to seek opportunities to learn about a diversity of perspectives
  • Your story is important; you never know who might need to hear that they’re not alone.
  • You’re gonna be fine 🙂

We are extremely proud of Jori and grateful for all her contributions to the Computer Science department.  It definitely won’t be the same without her, but we know that the department is a better place because of the time she spent with us.

Class of 2020 celebrates graduation!

The Hope College Computer Science class of 2020 graduated under very unique circumstances on May 3, 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented these students from gathering together to celebrate their accomplishments during the traditional May Commencement ceremony. But Covid-19 cannot prevent us from being proud of their accomplishments over the past several years! We are “Hope-ful” we can celebrate together in person at the scheduled August 1, 2020 commencement ceremony.

Some members of the class of 2020 were able to gather together virtually on April 16th, in a scene that became a bit too familiar for all of us towards the end of the semester!

Here are some of the members of the class of 2020, along December ’19 graduates Tim Roe and Haoming Zhang. Credit for Jori’s photo goes to CS alumna Melissa Bazany of M. Bee Media!

Not pictured are Jake Haitsma, Kien Ho, and Erin Zoerhoff.

Michael Kiley awarded 2019 Computer Science Senior Prize

Michael Kiley is the 2019 recipient of the Computer Science Senior Prize, a book award given to the graduating senior deemed to be the outstanding student by the faculty of the Computer Science department.

Think back to when you were a kid – do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?  A firefighter, a professional athlete, a nurse, or perhaps a teacher?  Michael Kiley’s dream was to be an inventor, following in the footsteps of Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell. Or like many young boys who admire their father, perhaps he would pursue becoming a medical doctor so that like his dad, he could use his work as a way to help other people.

Even though he didn’t have any computer-related experience coming into college, Michael chose to major in Computer Science since he saw that field as the home of present-day inventors, working to bring the latest technology to life.  Since he has always really enjoyed learning new things, he hoped that studying Computer Science would provide the atmosphere of exciting innovation that he was looking for.  That hope was fulfilled in numerous ways during his time studying Computer Science, both inside and outside of the classroom.

The most appealing part of computer science to me is that it allows you to create – create new software, create new solutions to complex and exciting problems, create new ways of interacting with others and with the world around you. And, once you have created something new, it is amazingly easy to distribute that creation to a huge audience. It is also very exciting due to the almost constant improvements and innovations that are being made within the field.

I wish people knew how much fun it is! If you like applying your creativity to solve new and exciting problems, CS is for you!

Michael spent two summers working on summer research projects and recalls those as being the best part of his student experience.  During these summers, his goal-orientation and persistence helped him grow his development skills and gain valuable experience that was very useful in subsequent internships and his search for a full time job.  The courses he took outside Computer Science as part of his liberal arts education also proved valuable, helping him develop the ability to think critically and learn effectively in areas beyond his technical focus.  For example, this past summer he interned at a company that creates software for several local court and jail systems in Michigan, and had to learn all sorts of things about the inner workings of these local governments in order to write the software.

In addition to his excellence in the classroom, Michael also excelled as a student-athlete.  He played varsity tennis throughout his time at Hope and was named a team captain in his senior year.  He was named to the all-MIAA team in each of his four years, twice as a first-team honoree and twice as a member of the second team. Recently he was named the 2019 recipient of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s Dr. Allen B. Stowe Memorial sportsmanship award.

I hope my peers and mentors at Hope College remember me as someone who was kind and genuine. It’d be nice if they remembered me as someone who was good at CS but who cared more about being a good person than being a good student.

Michael will begin full time employment after graduation as a member of the Connected Products team at Open Systems Technologies in Grand Rapids. His  dream for his career is to start his own business. While he doesn’t know exactly what that will look like, he does know that in 10 years he would like to be using his CS skills to work for himself in some form, whether it be on some product he comes up with or in consulting.   The faculty of the Computer Science department are confident he will be successful in whatever he pursues!

Mark Powers named 2019 Boundy Award recipient

Mark Powers is the 2019 recipient of the Boundy Award in Computer Science, an annual financial award funded by David Boundy and given to the person in the graduating class who is deemed by the computer sicence faculty to have the greatest potential for making future contributions to the field of computer science

Mark Powers’ first experience with Computer Science came through learning to program his TI-84 calculator in the 9th grade; in particular by writing a program to solve the quadratic equation.  He became intrigued by the possibilities of computer programming, and spent hours in class learning how to program the calculator by creating games and equation solvers.  His exploration of computer science continued in the 11th and 12th grade as he took Java Programming.  After graduating from Jenison High School, Mark headed to Hope College to study Computer Science, deciding against a Physics major so that he could focus exclusively on Computer Science.

Sounds like your typical computer science student story, right?  Once you hear how Mark got introduced to Computer Science, you may have started thinking that Mark spends all of his time working on computers, probably in a dark room and most likely all by himself.  But Mark’s fascination with and passion for computer science is broader than you might expect.  He doesn’t keep up with new software or gadgets, nor does he know how to fix computers.  While he enjoys programming, he finds the most enjoyment in exploring the theoretical side of the discipline, where he is able to see how he can push the limits of what is possible for computers.  To Mark, programs lose their beauty when they are forced to be made practical, and so he is not particularly a fan of large software projects or the field of software engineering.

Instead, courses such as Discrete Structures & Algorithms and Programming Language Design & Implementation were some of his favorites at Hope.  The programming languages course opened Mark’s eyes to all of the interesting problems in the field, which he calls “a great mix of theory, algorithms, and programming.”  Learning how to think creatively using a variety of programming language paradigms and discovering how the processes of program compilation and interpretation work have inspired Mark to pursue a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the field of programming languages.  The communication skills and different ways of thinking he has developed as part of his liberal arts education at Hope will play a major role in his success as a graduate student.

My favorite parts of being a Computer Science student at Hope College have been working with the professors in class and on research, and also the great memories I’ve had with friends in the lab.  I have cherished being part of the unique community in the Computer Science department.

In addition to course work, Mark also served as a help center associate and teaching assistant, as well as spending lots of time as a member of various research groups.  He plans to build on these experiences after completing graduate school by becoming a professor.  The Computer Science faculty are confident Mark will excel in this or anything else he takes on.

Sophomore Josie Crane receives Boren Scholarship for Study Abroad

Josie Crane, a sophomore from Mattawan, MI, has been awarded a Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program to fund a year of study in South Korea during the 2019-20 academic year.  The Boren Scholarships “provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.” (Boren Awards web site)

Josie plans to use her study abroad experience to integrate her love of language, her interest in both North and South Korea, her technical abilities gained through study of Computer Science,  and her desire to contribute to our national security.  Her eventual goal will be to serve as a Cyber Threat Analyst, Weapons Threat Analyst, or a similar position within the CIA.

Her interest in the Korean language and the logic and patterns in the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, are what led to her interest in studying Computer Science.  The flexibility of Hope’s Computer Science curriculum paid a big role in her decision to attend Hope.

I chose to attend Hope College partly because me studying abroad in Korea would be encouraged, even as a STEM major. Subsequently, I have been extremely diligent in planning when and where to take which classes for my computer science and international studies double major, as I have been eager to study Korean in South Korea since the 11th grade.

As part of her study abroad experience, Josie will study at Korea University, where she will work hard to become fluent in the Korean language, as well as expanding her knowledge of computer security and cyber defense at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.  She plans to supplement her time at the University by participating in the Lexis Korea language school between semesters, and will stay with a Korean family during that five week period, immersing herself in genuine Korean culture throughout her day.

Students and Faculty attend Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing

Hope College students and faculty from the Computer Science Department attended the Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing the weekend of March 29 and 30, where they learned about Data Science and gender-bias in Software Engineering.
Here are some of their comments:
“MICWIC was an emboldening experience! It was so inspirational to hear the stories of other women currently working in the field. The opportunities presented also gave me greater awareness of the diverse careers I could pursue with a CS degree.”
“MICWIC was a great opportunity to learn about the diverse careers in computer science, network, and hear personal experience from industry professionals. I especially appreciated talking to the amazing women who attended and hearing the great things they are doing in computer science.”
“Attending MICMIC was an empowering experience that allowed me to meet and connect with other passionate and successful women. Hearing their stories encouraged me to address issues like gender bias, racial discrimination, and cultural exclusion in technology and computing.”

Visiting lecturer’s talk inspires students

Dr. Valerie Taylor is the director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at Argonne National Laboratories Dr. Valerie Taylor, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Mathematics and Computer Science Division, gave two lectures as part of the Gentile Interdisciplinary Lecture series on March 6 and 7. Her presentation highlighted the impact Argonne’s work on high performance computing is making on important problems in a variety of scientific disciplines.

In addition to inspiring the audience to consider pursuing computational approaches to problem solving, Dr. Taylor also inspired at least one student in other ways. Read the blog post below to learn how Heaven Silas was encouraged by Dr. Taylor’s talk.

Claiming My Education: Black Women in STEM–Knowledge and Inspiration

Developing More Than Just Techies …

One of the distinguishing features of a Hope College education is the effort our faculty and staff make to help ensure that students think about more than just the technical aspects of their computer science education.  One way we have been doing this recently is in our “Exploring Computer Science” course by having students read and discuss two books that examine the societal impacts of technology, both on those who use or are otherwise affected by it, and on those who design and create it.

The two books are Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, and Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher.

Weapons of Math Destruction Web SiteLink to publisher web site for Technically Wrong

O’Neil’s book takes a look at how our increasing reliance on algorithms to make decisions has unintended impacts, particularly when those algorithms have biases encoded in them, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Wachter-Boettcher expands on the issues explored by O’Neil by looking at how the lack of diversity in the tech workforce might contribute to the problems caused by these algorithms.

Rather than tell you about these books myself, however, I’m going to let you hear from two students from the fall 2018 offering of “Exploring Computer Science,” Cy Balk and Kyle Ross.  In addition to reading one of the two books and writing a review, each student in the class was paired with a partner who had read the other book and tasked with creating a “podcast” episode where each played the role of their book’s author in a discussion about the two book’s content.

Though both Cy and Kyle are male students playing the role of two female authors in this podcast, the lessons they learned from this project transcend gender. They did an excellent job exploring the ideas in the two books and discussing them in an engaging way.  Take a listen!

Wrapping it All Up

(This is the third and final post in a series by Joe Bustamante, a Hope senior who spent the summer as an application development intern at Open Systems Technologies in Grand Rapids, MI.  In this series, Joe describes his internship experience and how it relates to his learning at Hope College.  Our apologies for not getting this one out sooner!).

It’s odd to think that school is back in full swing and I now have homework and other responsibilities that weren’t present this summer. The first week of classes may have just finished, but my mind is still partly in a summer mindset, especially when it comes to software development. I finished up my internship at Open Systems Technologies just a few weeks ago, but I’m still thinking about the opportunities I had there and some of the things I learned in the process. As I start up another school year and attempt to put many of the skills I practiced this summer into effect here at Hope, I’ve realized I can sum up some of what I learned this summer into three big takeaways.

The first big thing I realized from my internship is that application development is a team job. For the most part, any software system with even a mediocre level of complexity or size requires a team of people to build and maintain. As I worked on some larger systems this summer (at least, larger than some of the projects that you typically get assigned in classes), I realized how necessary it is to have good communication with your team. The only way to keep so many moving parts working together is not only with good architecture and design, but also maintaining constant communication throughout the development process. Any project that involves more than a couple branches of work necessitates that those branches have both a clear vision and purpose, as well as a cohesive way to handle any conflicts that arise as those branches are continuously merged back together.

Part of this first realization was also coming to understand some of the differences between the two main fields of development work: consulting and product. In consulting, communication is crucial since working with clients and meeting customer demands on a regular basis is key. Especially in a place that develops with an agile or agile-like methodology, and where regular demos and constant gathering of requirements are important, communicating effectively with both your team and a customer is an invaluable skill. That isn’t to say that communication isn’t also an essential skill in product development, but it takes a different form. The focus tends to be less on communication with the customer and more with your team and the rest of your organization, unless customer relations is part of your role. Either way, it’s important to think about what kind of a team dynamic you want to work with when trying to find a job as a developer. For me, I think this summer has shown me that working as a consultant on a small team within an agile methodology is one kind of dynamic I’m comfortable in. However, that might not be true for other people, and thus it’s important to try and get a feel for that dynamic at a potential workplace.

The second important realization I had this summer, and one which I’ve talked about a lot in previous posts, is the importance of continuous learning and question asking. There’s always someone who knows more than you or is more experienced than you. Seeking those people out to grow your own understanding is a valuable part of the of software development. Besides the actual programming and designing I did this summer, one of the main ways I learned and grew was from looking at the code that other people on my team had written, especially the more senior developers. Seeing the ways that other people solve similar problems is a great method to grow your own understanding. Code reviews work in tandem to this. Having other people look at your code and ask you why you did things the way you did is good practice for making you think about your decisions. Additionally, it lets others show you any of the potential errors or bugs you may have missed.

That said, it’s also important to have confidence in your ability and voice any questions you may have about the work of others, even if they may have more experience than you. At the very least, asking about things that don’t make sense to you will help you understand better, and it might even possibly uncover a bug or mistake in your team’s code that others didn’t realize. Imposter syndrome is a very real thing in the development field, and something that doesn’t always go away, even as you gain more experience. As most people who have ever been in the position of being the “expert” on something know, the pressure you feel when everyone looks to you for answers is often times even greater than what you feel when you just start out learning something. All that to say, never be afraid to ask questions and be confident in your own understanding of programming and the disciplines that surround it, and seek out the knowledge and advice of others whenever you can.

The final important lesson I learned this summer is the importance of understanding the field of computer science and software development as a whole. Certainly, most people who take a course in data structures, for example, won’t have to implement their own red-black tree. That said, there were a number of times this summer where I benefited even indirectly from a lot of the learning I did at Hope. One primary example of that is working with JavaScript for the first time this summer. Though I had never really worked with JS before, I had already been exposed to learning a number of different programming languages at Hope, and it helped make the process much easier. Additionally, JavaScript has started to include a lot of functional elements that my team was making use of. Because we had spent time learning about the functional paradigm and what some of its strengths and characteristics were, it made it a lot easier to learn that element of the language.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have a formal degree in computer science, of course; plenty of developers are self-taught or never went to college. However, the fundamental theories behind programming and computing that are taught in a computer science curriculum are invaluable to creating good software and making smart design decisions. Even if you don’t directly use some of the knowledge you gain in more specialized systems, the process of learning those things itself provides a huge benefit when it comes to learning new technology. And you never know – you may just have to work with some framework or technology that uses some of what you learned under the hood. That was also the case for me this summer. As my team was developing the Alexa skill and our cloud backend, we were using a lot of promises and asynchronous frameworks. Though my experience with asynchronous programming was minimal, and I had never used these frameworks before, the learning I did in my advanced algorithms class helped me understand what was going on in the background and fix some bugs when they came up. Even though I didn’t have to actually implement any parallel or asynchronous functionality besides what the frameworks provided, knowing how those concepts worked allowed me to find bugs and use those frameworks more effectively.

It was an incredible opportunity to be able to work at OST. It’s hard to sum up everything I learned into a single blog post, but I think these three things encapsulate the summer well. Spending a summer working on a team and developing an actual product has helped me realize that software development, and especially consulting, is something that I would love to do as a career. Being able to gain hands-on experience through an internship was a valuable way for me to come to that realization about software development, and definitely something I would recommend to anyone else interested in the field.