Ryan Finds a Way to Pursue Computing

Photo of a person using a laptop

Ryan Finds a Way to Pursue Computing

I've been interested in computers and computer programming since I was in high school. When I was a junior, I joined a program called Emerging Leaders through the College of Engineering at the University of Washington (UW). When I started the program, there were about fifty high school students in the program with me.

During my junior and senior year of high school, I participated in events offered through Emerging Leaders. I applied to the University of Washington when I was a senior. I also applied for pre-admission into the UW Computer Science & Engineering (CS&E) department. It was exciting when I heard from the UW that I was accepted. About ten students that I knew from Emerging Leaders were also accepted to the UW, so I knew that they would also be on campus. I continued to participate in Emerging Leaders events as a freshman in college. I networked with staff in another program I participated in as a high school student, DO-IT Scholars and I also started working in the Access Technology Center on campus.

By the end of my second year in college, I was still interested in enrolling in the CS&E but was having a hard time completing the admission requirements. Typically, students complete those requirements in about a year. I felt like my disability impacted the rate at which I could complete classes and my grades because of the pace the work required. I applied to CS&E, but was not admitted. In the spring of my third year, I applied to the Informatics Department. That summer, I was notified that my admission was denied. I appealed the process and was told that my grades did not meet their requirements. I thought of changing schools to pursue computer science, however I was anxious about changing institutions, uncertain if my credits would transfer.

In the fall of my fourth year, I looked at other options for a degree path. Some fellow students recommended Political Science. So I met with a representative from the department. After the meeting I felt I could complete their requirements and graduate in a year and a half. I chose to pursue Political Science at the UW.

I received mentoring and help locating internships and other work-based learning opportunities from AccessComputing. AccessComputing is a program located at the UW that provides resources to help students with disabilities pursue computing fields. AccessComputing is sponsored by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and DO-IT. Although I am now pursuing a degree in Political Science, all of my college work experiences have been in the field of computing. I worked at the Access Technology Center part time throughout my eight years at the UW, completed an internship through the Workforce Recruitment Program at the Department of Defense working as a computing clerk, and attended a web accessibility workshop. I enjoyed my work at the Department of Defense and returned for three summers as an intern. The Department of Defense encouraged me to apply for a position as a result of my internships, but since I had not graduated with a degree I was not eligible for the positions.

Looking back at my academic career, it might have been better for me to attend a smaller school offering a computer-related degree focused on practical programming, rather than a large institution like the UW with a greater focus on research and development. I am hoping to use my Political Science degree and my computing skills in my future career.