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  • CSSE Trailblazer: Lauren Niesz

    Photo of Lauren NieszMy name is Lauren Niesz and I am a current graduate student of Information Systems (Technical Track). I want to share with you what my journey has been like in this program. My undergraduate degree was actually in English—totally unrelated to Information Systems. I have a degree in not only a different major, but in a completely different school of thought. However, being at Monmouth University for both my undergraduate degree and now my graduate degree has truly been the best decision of my life.

    It was because of the smaller class sizes and more personal experiences that I was afforded such incredible opportunities all along at Monmouth. In an undergraduate degree, all students are required to take an Information Technology (IT) course; I was lucky enough to have had a professor who noticed my potential in the tech field. It was because of the relationship that we built during my undergrad that I took on the IT minor. If I hadn’t met this professor, worked for her, and taken that minor, I would’ve never had the confidence to take on this graduate degree.

    This personalized learning experience and interest in student wellbeing did not change in the Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) Department when I started my graduate degree immediately after graduating with my humanities bachelor’s degree.

    I said I was confident starting the program and I wasn’t lying; however, confidence undoubtedly waivers when you enter a field you have no experience in. Meltdowns and second-guessing will ensue and feel consuming at times, but, at Monmouth, the professors and student peers, are the absolute best support. I took a required Data Structures and Algorithms course over the summer and cried almost every day because I was having a very hard time understanding the abstraction and programming and was on the verge of failing. My peer, Lulu, a Chinese exchange student, took me under her wing and I went to tutoring with her every week. I also went to the professor who assured me he knew I was trying my best and he was proud of me. Taking this course was one of the hardest things I endured in my studies…but, I passed! There is literally help at every step of the way at Monmouth, and, specifically, in the CSSE Department.

    At Monmouth, seldom will you ever run into a student or professor who isn’t willing to help. There is even a Student Cyber Lounge in the heart of CSSE, Howard Hall, where students not only hang out and relax, but also take that space and utilize it for learning and collaboration. In this area, you’ll always find other students to ask questions and engage in healthy discussion.

    Another area of student life as a student in the CSSE Department is the IEEE Club. I currently serve as the Secretary for the club and have met some lifelong friends being a part of it. We offer experiences such as conference attendance, tech talks from industry folks, and our annual kickball game against the Math Department to name a few. And, if you’re looking for a meeting of great minds for philanthropic type events, we have the Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) Chapter, which is the computing honor society. I currently serve as the Treasurer of our UPE Chapter and I can attest that it’s a great chapter to be accepted into and to get involved with.

    At Monmouth, you are not a number or a statistic. Monmouth cares about your future. The CSSE Department wants to see its students succeed. Without this incessant will for success instilled in each professor and each peer, I wouldn’t be in the position I am.

    What position is that, you ask? I was recommended to apply for a scholarship through Anita for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing by the same professor who encouraged me to enter this graduate program all together. I was granted the scholarship and, at this conference, the largest conference for women in computing in the world, I accepted an offer to work for Comcast/NBC/Universal in their Philadelphia Headquarters as a testing engineer in June, following my graduation.

    It’s challenging to come from an unrelated background, but anything really is possible with the right people in your court and that is what I was fortunate enough to be afforded during my time at Monmouth University in the CSSE Department.

  • Grace Hopper Celebration 2017

    From October 4-6, eight students and two faculty members traveled down to Orlando, Florida for the Anita Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This event is a haven for all women in the computing fields to get together and network and simply enjoy the atmosphere of women in technology who share the same interests and similar skills. There were approximately 18,000 women and men who attended the event. Out of this we estimate only 5% of the attendees were male.

    The 3-day long event consisted of many different parts. There were the various workshops, inspiring keynotes and influential talks by women who paved the way and opened doors for all future women in tech, a career fair aspect where 300+ companies got together to recruit the thousands of women who attended, and an interview hall for prospective interns and employees to be interviewed on site.

    Attendees were able to hear about the triumphs and failures of many tech moguls in the industry through the various keynotes, talks, and workshops. Some speakers included Telle Whitney, former CEO and President of Anita, Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and former Microsoft employee. In the speakers’ stories, attendees heard of how the speakers’ own perseverance and help from other females and male allies in the field propelled them to where they are today.

    Monmouth University students who were sponsored by the Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) Department and a grant received from the School of Science Student Travel Fund included KerryAnn Demeester, a senior software engineering student; William Jones, a junior computer science and software engineering student; Brianna Licciardello, a junior computer science student; Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student; Stephanie Okereke, a sophomore computer science student; and Jessica Zemartis, a senior software engineering student. These students were able to attend the event along with two more MU students who attended as Grace Hopper Scholars and were fully sponsored and awarded the trip to the conference through the head sponsoring organization, Anita; these students were Megan Rapach, a senior software engineering student, and Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student. Students were accompanied by Chair of the Computer Science & Software Engineering Department and Specialist Professor, Jamie Kretsch, and Specialist Professor, Jan Rohn.

    The networking opportunities at the conference were unparalleled to any other networking opportunities that the students had been exposed to previously. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple were ready to meet prospective interns/employees and as were insurance, retail, and start up companies such as Prudential, Target, Walmart, and Blue Apron.

    “In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them [female pioneers in tech] by continuing their work.”

    Lauren Niesz
    Graduate MIS Student

    It is clear that tech is truly in everything. The conference opened the students’ eyes to the infinite possibilities that a degree in anything tech-related can afford them.

    Lauren Niesz, a graduate MIS student, said, “It is so important to be exposed to all different areas that tech is involved in. I had no idea that these big, seemingly non-tech, companies are in need of technical engineers. Being that I really didn’t have as much experience in the field as everyone else because I was an English undergraduate student, it was a pivotal experience for me to find out where I fit into the equation in this world.”

    “It was also absolutely incredible to be exposed to these women who have truly paved the way for all of us. In a way, our attendance at the conference was our way of saying thank you to them by continuing their work,” Niesz continued.

    For Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student, the experience was a bit different. Reda was able to attend the conference last year as a sophomore and now, this year, she returned as a Grace Hopper Scholar.

    Reda stated, “As a scholar, I was able to go to a reception and work with mentors on our interviewing and networking skills. This helped me get many on site interviews, in addition to my interviews before the conference!”

    Many of the CSSE students were offered formal interviews and even internships on the spot and all students were afforded the opportunity to hold lengthy conversations regarding the industry and possible internships/jobs with recruiters from various companies. We are so proud of our CSSE students who attended the conference and experienced what power and potential they are afforded in this industry. Women in tech have the ability to make waves and really change the seemingly stagnant tide in the tech world.

    Some women in tech are comfortable where they stand, but for this group of students, they plan on changing the world.

    As Grace Hopper herself once said, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Good luck in the future to our Grace Hopper attendees and all CSSE students in their quest for positive change in the industry!

    To learn more about the conference and even check out the keynotes, visit:

    To learn more about Anita, visit: