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.

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