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Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

A student journey through journalism and computer science

By Nadia Beidas

     This semester is ending, many of us are graduating and we deal with an abrupt goodbye. None of us knew when we left for spring break that it would be the last time many of us would see each other.

     We understand ending in-person instruction was necessary. After all, safety and health come first. But it is not the way any of us expected to end this semester and say goodbye to our days at Lewis.

     The past three years at Lewis have been very special to me. As a returning student, I came from an entirely unrelated field of study, journalism.

     When I decided to go back to school, the reaction I received was mixed. Some, especially my family, were fully supportive and encouraging. I would like to thank my wonderful family and amazing friends for all their support and believing in me so strongly.

     But I did receive some negative feedback, including why was I trying a difficult field, an insistence that I would not succeed, I would not be able to program code as well as people who had been doing so for years and that I should study to become an English teacher instead.

     I do not write this to call anyone out. Everywhere you go in life, people are going to be negative and positive. I include this to encourage people like me, who are atypical computer science students, to try and know they can succeed.

     The road to graduation was not an easy one. I had been out of school for a number of years, I had not seen any math in a long time and I had no background at all in technology. It was also hard for me, especially my pride, to have to take student loans for the first time as I had finished two degrees already with academic scholarships. 

     But I was determined to give this opportunity everything I could, and work as hard as possible to succeed. I thought of all the people, especially other young women, in this country and abroad who would love the chance and the privilege to study. Life had opened a door for me, and I needed to walk through it.

     As I started my studies, I thought hard about how to approach the material. I took all the advice I was given about starting assignments early and asking questions, and this really helped.

After my first semester studying Computer Science at Lewis, I was part of a team of students who installed the Netlabs facility under the leadership of Professor Eric Spangler. See the original article at https://www.lewisu.edu/experts/wordpress/index.php/a-major-enhancement-to-computer-science-education-at-lewis-university/

      And as weeks progressed, I found there were a number of similarities between how one approaches journalism and computer science.

     Both fields deal with logic, truth and facts. In journalism, a reporter keeps conducting interviews and research to find the truth, and represent all the sides of a situation. In computer science, especially programming, the programmer continues to try new methods of coding, debug and research different ways for the program to run smoothly.

     Perseverance is essential to both fields. The answers, interviews, research and solutions do not always come or produce anything of value right away. But with diligence and determination, the intended work is accomplished.

     Journalism and computer science deal with writing and editing. In both fields, the reporter or programmer writes with their own style and has everything run with a certain flow. Once completed, the writing will need editing, through a journalism article is one or two edits while code might require more. 

     Deadlines are also extremely important. An article has to be written and published in a timely manner in order to be current and relevant, as well as prepared to continue with the latest developments or move on to another topic. Code has to be completed, networks set up and security in place in a timely manner, in order to keep technology running smoothly and safely.

      There is an element of documentation in both fields. In journalism, a reporter will attribute all sources of information in an article. In a software engineering project, tools like Jira and GitHub are used to keep track of the tasks at hand, and the team members who accomplish the tasks.

     Proper communication skills are vital to both fields, and every other field in existence. Interviews have to be conducted, articles have to be properly and objectively written and there are editors, coworkers and bosses to have a good rapport with. In computer science, the computer scientists deal with customers, coworkers, bosses and a good rapport must also be built.

     In the workforce, some colleagues have better rapport than others. At Lewis, I have had a good rapport with my instructors. I have always been able to ask a number of questions, and received a lot of encouragement and outright kindness from my instructors.

     One particular moment of encouragement I had was back in my Intro to Computer Science class with Dr. Ray Klump. I remember him emphasizing early on that the computer science field is creative as well as technical, and I remember thinking at the time, well if this field requires creativity, I can certainly create something original. Earlier this semester, I interviewed Dr. Cindy Howard and she also emphasized the importance of creativity in computer science.

     Luckily, I had the opportunity to combine creativity and computer science in my capstone project. I have had many dreams in my life, and one of them is writing and illustrating my own stories. My project, Story Spotlight, has 126 short stories in a choose your own adventure format with illustrations and karaoke songs done by me. Here is the link http://cs.lewisu.edu/~nadiadbeidas/Capstone/Story_Spotlight_home.html.

This is a portion of the home page of Story Spotlight.

     Not only was I able to achieve a personal dream, but I went beyond my expectations and did the technical aspect in addition to the creative aspect. The computer science program at Lewis enabled me to achieve this dream, with the support of the instructors in CaMS [Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences].

     There are so many specific examples I can list as far as positive instructor encouragement, but that would turn into a textbook instead of an article.

     I had planned to go and thank each instructor personally and say goodbye properly in person. Not every experience in life has been as positive as the one I just had at Lewis, and I am truly grateful. I am also glad to have met all of my instructors and wish you all the best life can bring.

     I will also miss my fellow classmates as I consider them my younger brothers and sisters. I have been impressed with how bright and talented you all are, and I hope you all go on to amazing careers and futures. I also wish you all the best life can bring.

In March of 2019, I presented at the CAIS Tech conference in Floriano, Brazil along with Janeise Davis, Hector Dondiego and Levi El Fattal. This was a part of Exploring Technology on the Global Stage under Professor Eric Spangler.

     I am sorry to be leaving Lewis. This is the first time I ever graduate feeling sad to leave instead of only looking forward to the next chapter. But we never know what life brings, and maybe someday I will be back at Lewis in some way.

     I wish you all well, safe and happy. You have all inspired me, and I hope I have been a positive influence on the lives of those I met as well.

     I leave you with a quote from Kahlil [Khalil] Gibran. “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness or despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

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