By: Isaiah Silva
Before her junior year of high school, Elena Davidson had many different ideas of what she wanted to do in the future. She toyed with the idea of being a lawyer, a teacher, and even an engineer, just to name a few. Once summer came, all of those ideas went flying out of the window.
“There’s a camp here at New Mexico State University called the Young Women in Computing Summer camp and when I was a sophomore in high school, my mom and an AES facilitator sort of ganged up on me and forced me to do the computer science camp,” Elena said.
Now a sophomore at NMSU majoring in Computer Science, Elena says that thanks to that camp, she knows it is what she wants to do for the rest of her life.
“I thought computer science was going to be hard; I thought it was going to be boring. I thought it was going to be scary. I thought I wasn’t going to be good at it, but they said to just go and try it, and I went for one week and I absolutely fell in love with computer science,”
The decision to pursue Computer Science as a career has really paid off for Elena. Elena is one of the recipients of the Conroy Achievement Scholarship.
“My graduating class year is the first year that it was awarded to anyone. Basically you don’t have to apply, it’s pretty cool. In high school you were designated as a National Merit or National Hispanic Recognition scholar, you are eligible for this scholarship,” she said, “It’s an incredible scholarship because not only does it provide you with financial help and pays for your tuition and it gives you a housing stipend, it gives you this really unique network of other Conroy scholars that you get to hang out with and talk with.”
In addition to receiving her scholarship, Elena believes that NMSU has had a big impact on her success and opportunities. Elena started at a different, much larger university. She was there for one semester, decided to transfer to NMSU, and does not regret the decision one bit.
“About halfway through that semester, I realized that wasn’t the university for me, it wasn’t the right feel and it just wasn’t the right fit for me. So, I called my mom, I think around Halloween and I told her I was transferring and I would see her in December.”
Since arriving at New Mexico State, Elena said her whole perspective on college and how it should be changed. Here she found a community that was inviting and welcoming.
“College all the sudden was challenging and it was fun. There was never a dull moment. It was exciting and engaging. There’s definitely days where it’s difficult and it’s challenging, and I mean its not easy, but its hand down the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Elena said.
One thing Elena loves about NMSU is how personal her education has been. She says that her professors know their students by name and what they’re involved in.
“The CS Department at New Mexico State is wonderful. The professors know you by name and talk to you in the hallways, and they really want you to succeed. They’re willing to meet with you one on one to make sure you understand everything,” Elena said.
“I have to include Dr. Chaiken in there. I’ve never had one of her classes but she’s just been so supportive. Whatever question I have whether its some little question about housing, or something big like my stipend isn’t showing up on mynmsu, she always responds to me super quickly. She knows all her students by name, what they’re involved in, she’s incredible. She’s honestly like a superhero.”
Elena continued on to praise her professors such as Dr. Cooper. She has had two classes with him and she says he is very big on getting to know his students. He in encouraging and helps students on things that will help them after college such as resumes.
“He’s not just a professor, he wants his students to succeed not only in his class, but in college,” Elena said.
“If I had to include one more, I would have to do Daniela Miranda. She’s just been so encouraging and so supportive. Whatever I needed whether it was a letter of recommendation or a quick question about a workshop, she always got back to me really quickly. She was one of the first people to tell me to go for it when I’m questioning whether or not I should try something.”
Elena’s support system doesn’t stop there. Her family has been there for her every step of the way.
“I cannot speak highly enough about them [friends and family]. They have been the most incredible support team for me. My dad would stay up with me to help me study for a physics test and my mom would proofread my English essays, so they’ve always encouraged me,” she continued, “My little sister is incredible too. She called me her role model once and I think I teared up honestly. She’s my best friend.”
“All my friends have just been so supportive. I don’t even know how to word it beyond encouraging and supportive,” Elena said.
When looking to her future, Elena has many big plans and she says she would not be where she is within the field of Computer Science without NMSU.
“It was because of the Young Women in Computing organization that I even got the scholarship to attend the conference where I got the interview with Google, so without that
whole spiral of events I wouldn’t have the internship that I do. Not only that, but NMSU is a very involved community. They allow you to get involved really early in your college career which can kind of be uncommon at other universities. The CS department has given me incredible skills,” Elena said.
Elena was given an internship with Google for the summer of 2017. In late May, Elena will journey to Google’s head office in Mountain View, California. She will be participating in their engineering practicum internship.
“I’m crazy excited for that because it’s super hard to get into Google. I’m still in disbelief. It’s just an amazing, surreal opportunity.”
Also in Elena’s future, is a hope for happiness. Of course, she wants to graduate, hopefully with Honors, but above all to enjoy herself and be happy with whatever position she finds herself in.
“During the first semester where I was at the university where I wasn’t happy, it taught me that instead of planning everything out like I had before, it’s more important to have a direction rather than a step-by-step plan,” she said, “You can have goals and achieve them along the way, but I think it’s important to remember that the direction is the most important part and realizing that it’s life and plans change.”
“You’re not defined by your GPA, or that one test grade, it’s all part of your journey, so just kind of embrace it. Life’s fun and messy and wonderful so just go with it,” Elena said.
With all of her achievements, it’s hard to believe Elena is in her second year of college. She is a role model Aggie with a lot of potential.