I am a computer science and math double major studying at Ursinus College and hoping to make the world more accessible for all. I’m also a creative writing minor.
I’ve always enjoyed stories. When I got home from school each day as a kid, I would watch the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) show Cyberchase, a show about a trio of children who solve logic puzzles to save a digital universe. I grew up learning from PBS, which now has an autistic character in both Sesame Street and Arthur, so it was a privilege to work at the WTTW PBS and 98.7 WFMT radio center in Chicago this summer.
I attended the Kemper Scholars summer program, where rising juniors live in apartments together and intern at non‑profits in Chicago. On the first day, the other employees welcomed me despite my social differences as an individual with autism.
I realized how we take so many services and agencies in life for granted without understanding how much work they take to operate. While I did automate a donor pledge schedule in Excel during my internship, non-profits cannot automate their relationships with donors. I had seen the on-air sponsor recognition growing up, but did not guess that far more than just a donation was involved. I wrote letters to donors who support new TV and radio programs.
I also expedited some spreadsheet tasks using Visual Basic for Applications and Excel functions. For example, I was asked to count how many of each unique zip code were in a large file. The employee assumed it would take me days or weeks, but a PivotTable performed the task in a few seconds. This allowed me to tackle other tasks that could free the time of the experienced employees who had deep connections with donors.
My passion for PBS pushed me to take my technical and writing projects in different directions, and some days seemed to pass too quickly. Some days were surreal, like when I watched an enchanting female violinist who had gone through dozens of surgeries after a train accident but never let go of her positivity.
I participated in a filmed boat tour led by Geoffrey Baer, a famous PBS figure. I saw the passion in the actions of Kerry Frumkin, the owner of a memorable voice I heard often on a syndicated classical music station back home.
Another intern and I helped at an event that promoted STEM and the TV show Nature Cat, which was inspiring kids to get off the couch and into nature activities, to local teachers. I wrote a stewardship report that described the powerful impact of this and other TV programs along with the radio station programs that included a showcase of children who play classical music.
Computer science students do not typically choose to work at or think of working at non-profits, but I would suggest thinking about causes you care about or have helped you that can use your skills. Non-profit work may not be as secure or routine as the corporate world, but the need to adapt and problem solve is what drew me to computer science. Think about what drew you to computing, and see where that takes you.