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  • CSSE Trailblazer: William Leif Jones

    Photo of William Leif Jones

    How Monmouth Gave Me a Second Chance.

    I am very lucky to have been accepted into Monmouth University. College was not initially in my path when I graduated high school in 2004. As a young father, I felt like I had to do what was necessary to make sure my daughter had the life and opportunities that I did not. I had made the decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and excelled in all areas of my time spent in service. After 5 years enlisted and 2 deployments later, my time in the Marines had come to an end and it was now time to make a life for my family and myself out in the civilian world. I had learned such a sense of duty and responsibility in the Marine Corps that it was harder than I had imagined to fit in with my peers. When I interviewed for my first civilian job in the real world they saw the maturity I possessed and gave me a management position at Sam’s Club. I eventually stepped down to an overnight stock position to help take care of my children during the day, and to take some time to work on my mental health. I struggled a bit at first going from the extremes of working for the United States Marine Corps and being the “best of the best” to not quite having a purpose. As I worked on ways to accept and cope with my PTSD, I started to connect with some of the other veterans and realized I could do more and that I wanted to do more with my life. I needed to have some sort of fulfillment and find a way to serve my country on my terms, so in 2014 I decided to use my GI Bill and applied to Monmouth University.

    I wanted to make a difference but was unsure what I could do with my anxiety, so I decided to look into working with computers. I wasn’t too familiar with the computer science and software engineering department but for the first time since I had gotten out of the service, I knew once again that I was going to be a part of something greater than myself. When I started here at Monmouth the Computer Science and Software Engineering department became a second family. Professors and students alike were more than willing to help; the support here has been amazing. The students in your classes become your brothers and sisters with whom you spend all your time with. The class sizes are small, which makes each class personable. I have been very lucky to meet brilliant individuals who I know I will remain friends with for the rest of my life.

    Monmouth gave me the chance to learn the skills I needed to embrace a career for the rest of my life. I was not very aware when I embarked on this new chapter how much programming and the military had in common but, it truly did. As I went through class after class, all the disciplines that I had learned in the Marines could be translated into my code. There were rules and structure and I realized that is what I had been missing. Taken the things that I had been taught in the classroom, I had learned that this was just the beginning. Getting involved with the local student run IEEE/ACM chapter was where I found the people that strived for more. We did hackathons, outreach, and even host a high school programming competition. There are so many things to keep you occupied and to get involved on campus. Monmouth also has research opportunities

    that allow you to work with faculty on a project that they are working on. All these activities are available and allowed me to become a better programmer.

    Finally, I learned that the misconception of working with computers did not mean that there would be no human interaction. This was not the case and Monmouth prepared me for that too. I was also amazed to find out how many options there are within the coding field, from medical to banking, or even where I ended up back with the military. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to receive an offer from Northrop Grumman where I will be an entry level software engineer working with the military. Monmouth has shown me the door and I made the choice to walk through it.

  • 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.

  • 4th Annual High School Programming Contest!

    Monmouth University’s Computer Science and Software Engineering Department looks forward to hosting area students and teachers once again at our 2019 High School Programming Contest on Friday, March 1.

    We hope that this fun and challenging programming opportunity will be as enjoyable and rewarding for teachers and students as they’ve told us our previous competitions were.

    Our competition this year is open for up to 24 teams of 3 students/team.

    Registration is available through: Eventbright

    In the past, available slots filled within several days, so we urge you to register your teams asap. Once 24 slots are taken, remaining teams will go on a waitlist. We ask all participants to let us know if they do not need all of their registered team spots, so we can make that spot available to another team.

    The Details: Team Composition

    Each team consists of no more than three (3) students. Schools can send 1 to 4 teams, accompanied by one or two high school faculty and/or administrators.

    No later than Friday 2/1/19, we would like teachers to email Prof. Jamie Kretsch the following:

    1. the name and academic year of each participant, organized by team. Please include the school name, since some districts are represented by multiple schools.

      • All student members must be currently enrolled at the high school they represent.

      • If the teacher accompanying the team to the competition is other than the individual who registered the team, please include the name of the advisor and their position in the school.

      • If other school administrators would like to come, they are absolutely welcome but please provide that information in advance.

    2. An agreed-upon name for each team, related to the high school name and including “CS” in it (e.g. MiddSouthRocksCS1 or OceanACS). It’ll be used as a social media tag!

    3. A scanned copy of the completed, signed Photo Release form for EACH team member. Any school that does not provide signed Photo Release forms prior to the contest cannot be recognized. Download the Photo Release Form.

    4. T-shirt size for all attendees.

    5. Any special needs, including dietary, for any participant.

    6. Transportation plan – we have been asked to provide information in advance on how many buses (full-size? mini?) will be dropping off students. There is no parking on campus for busses, but several shopping areas are nearby.

    The Details: Preliminary Contest Information, stay tuned for updates

    The contest venue will consist of 2 buildings on the Monmouth University campus

    • Our School of Science home, Edison Science building, recently renovated (it is stunning!) will host the main meeting space in the School of Science Atrium, Edison 201. Signs will direct you to the Atrium entrance upon your arrival.

    • Computer lab facilities are in Howard Hall, located just across the hall from the Atrium.

    Buses and cars can enter the University through the Larchwood Ave entrance and discharge passengers near the Leon Hess School of Business. The walkway between the School of Business and Pozycki Hall will lead you directly to the Science Atrium. Buses that remain in the area will be asked to park off-campus after drop-off.

    Contestants should arrive at the Registration Desk in the Atrium between 8:30-9:15am. The program will start promptly at 9:30 am.  Please refer to the 2019 Schedule page for the event schedule.

    Teams will receive a package that includes the schedule, rules and instructions on how to electronically submit a program for judging.

  • 2018 Warm Wishes

    Now that the spring semester has arrived, let’s take a look at how students are helping their future bloom in 2018. We’re seeing an increase in students looking into exciting summer internships, pursuing work and research opportunities, applying for conference scholarships, and  more becoming involved in campus and department activities.

    We want to take this moment to point out that we share on our Facebook page many internship and summer research opportunities for all students. As we write this blog there is a summer research opportunity with New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) posted (funded by the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates) that we are encouraging students to apply for, as well as an internship opportunity with the NJ Cyber Security and Communications Integration Cell (NJCSCIC). These opportunities and more will be posted on our Facebook page when they come to our attention; so it is important that you take the time to check it out and “like” the page!

    Also on our MUCSSE Facebook page is an application to be a scholar at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC), the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. It provides an amazing chance to learn from women in computing and engineering, to meet people from all over the world, and to meet prospective tech employers. Check out what previous students who attended this past year, 2017, said in our blog post.

    We urge you to keep an eye open for notices like the GHC scholar application and internship/research opportunities. We also encourage students that involvement with on-campus activities is often important in applications for off-campus opportunities.

    We hope to see all of our students increase their involvement this semester; in particular we’re excited about the upcoming High School Programming Contest on February 23. This is our third offering of the Competition; area high schools bring teams of three students to engage in a contest where the student teams, without any outside assistance, solve an array of different programs (pun intended!). All students have a great time, meet with university students, hear inspiring speakers and compete for top prizes awarded by industry sponsors. We rely heavily on MU student assistance, so be sure to join us at the upcoming IEEE meeting  on February 14 to sign up and help at this event. And, of course, all returning and new students are welcome to join IEEE/ACM.

    Check out our Facebook here:

  • Students Reflect on the Grace Hopper Celebration 2017

    In early October, eight students and two faculty members traveled to Orlando, Florida for the Anita Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The event was for women in the varying computing fields to connect, collaborate, and create.

    The impact that the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing had on the students who were lucky enough to attend has not worn off. For an event so massive, it is hard not to think about the effects it has had on a student and her/his daily life as a computer science or software engineering student. Here is what our attending students had to say…

    The department had two Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) Scholars, Megan Rapach, a senior software engineering student, and Kalyna Reda, a junior software engineering student. Students who applied for this coveted scholarship, if selected, were awarded a fully sponsored trip to the conference by Anita and it’s associated sponsors.

    The two Monmouth University GHC scholars were grateful to have been given the chance to attend the conference as scholars. Rapach said, “I’m grateful that I was given this opportunity and it was an honor to attend this year’s conference as a GHC Scholar; I attended an event held specifically for scholars, in which I met other scholars from around the world and learned how to construct and deliver an elevator pitch.”

    While the scholars were given some extra unique opportunities, they still attended the conference talks and the other varying opportunities such as the career fair and the interview hall,  just the same as the rest of the 18,000 women and men that attended the conference.

    “I feel very lucky to attend a university where professors, advisors, and the rest of the professional staff, strive to help their students succeed.”

    Brianna Licciardello
    Junior Computer Science Student

    For Reda, the talk that stood out most for her was that of Debbie Sterling, the CEO of Goldieblox. Reda stated, “After hearing an idea about engineering tools for girls, she took this to build the amazing company that Goldieblox is today. She persevered through the hard times, and continued despite the many no’s that she received. Sterling wanted to destroy the pink aisle, meaning she wanted to come up with thought provoking toys for little girls, rather than the pink dolls, makeup, and costumes that were in stock at stores. She created GoldieBlox, an engineering toy for girls, and won a Super Bowl commercial to show her product!”

    Sterling was also a point of interest for Brianna Licciardello, a junior computer science student. Licciardello was one of six students that were sponsored by Monmouth University School of Science Student Travel Fund and Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering. Licciardello stated of Sterling’s talk: “Her story specifically interested me because it was riddled with so much failure, yet she always prevailed. I was also excited to hear from a speaker who used her degree in an untraditional way, as this is something I can see myself doing one day.”

    Many of the students found extreme motivation and inspiration from the various speakers; in a field that is so reliant on ultimate perfection, there truly is a vast amount of failure and fixing that is are imperative steps. Students are often discouraged by failures and by confusion, but this conference and these female speakers showed the attendees that this is merely a part of the process of understanding who you are and what your mission is.

    This idea was reflected by sophomore computer science student, Stephanie Okereke, who was comforted by the speakers’ expressions of failure: “…Sometimes I feel as though because I was not exposed to programming in my high school years that I am incapable of doing the work, when in reality that is the opposite. As the saying goes, we all have to learn to crawl before we can walk.”

    For MIS graduate student, Lauren Niesz, this was also an integral part for her to find her way in the field: “For me, personally, this conference gave me direction in my life. I am a graduate student of MIS, but I was an English undergraduate student, so I was pretty lost in the field before this conference. If I didn’t attend this conference, I would have no focus and my motivation in the field would be lacking as well.”

    Along the same sentiment, a junior software engineering student, Jessica Zemartis, admitted, “Oftentimes, I find myself struggling with Imposter Syndrome- low confidence and exceedingly high personal standards. The Grace Hopper Celebration was the dose of inspiration, confidence and exposure I needed to help move past some of those mental barriers.”

    “Seeing so many diverse, interesting, and successful women from a plethora of companies, positions and backgrounds helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and how my own journey has unfolded. It helped me realize that while there still exist many cultural and social barriers that need to be overcome, the biggest barrier to my success would be myself if I didn’t truly embrace my skills, experiences and passions,” Zemartis continued.

    KerryAnn DeMeester, a senior software engineering student, agreed with what others said, “I needed this convention to prove to myself that I am capable of being a successful woman in technology.”

    Junior computer science and software engineering student, William Jones, was one of very few males to attend the conference. His take on the conference was definitely different from the others. He stated, “I would have never guessed in the field that I am studying that there is such a divide and that even within this divide, there is another divide that deals with race and ethnicity.”

    He continued, “I have been given a chance to hopefully change this so that in the company and places that I wind up working at can stop this unjustness from happening immediately and maybe from ever happening again in the future.”

    These students were able to find their way in the field and truly learn how to navigate through all of the opportunities that the field has to offer young, female tech-oriented students. They were all extremely grateful for the opportunity and many had some words of thanks to extend to the Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering & the Anita Institute (for scholars)…

    Megan Rapach: “I’m grateful that I was given this opportunity and it was an honor to attend this year’s conference as a GHC Scholar.”

    Brianna Licciardello: “I feel very lucky to attend a university where professors, advisors, and the rest of the professional staff, strive to help their students succeed. If it was not for this hands-on professional development approach, I might not have had the opportunity to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing this October.”

    Lauren Niesz: “I am so thankful to the Department of Computer Science & Software Engineering, the School of Science, and just Monmouth University in general for affording me this transformative experience.”

    Jessica Zemartis: “I hope that Monmouth University will continue to send students to the Grace Hopper Celebration for many years to come. I found the experience deeply moving and will continue to attend future Celebrations, while encouraging other women to do the same.”

    KerryAnn DeMeester: “I am beyond grateful to Monmouth University for sponsoring me to attend the Grace Hopper Convention. As an individual who struggles with maintaining self-esteem and confidence,”

    Reda sums it up when she stated, “I am excited to be a part of this change.” All of our students who attended this conference are bursting with the thirst for change and beaming with a light of opportunity. They wanted to share their experience at this event in order to show others who did not have the opportunity to attend that anything really is possible—even for a woman, and even in the field of computing, engineering, and technology.



  • CSSE Trailblazer: Colton Lambert

    My name is Colton Lambert, I am graduating this May with a B.S. in Computer Science and a minor in Business Administration. I currently have an internship lined up with BluMarc in Bridgewater, NJ and I will resume studies for an M.S. in Information Systems this summer.

    I have a diverse background over my four years at Monmouth with involvement in New Student Orientation, Track and Field as the Pole Vault Senior Captain, and Desk Assistant Manager and Resident Assistant. I hope to secure a graduate assistantship either through the department of Computer Science & Software Engineering or the School of Business since I will be combining my interests in both with my MSIS. I am looking forward to growing as an individual and enjoying grad school.

    Upon finishing grad school at Monmouth University I am inspiring to enter the fitness industry. A close friend of mine and myself will be opening a strength and conditioning gym along the Jersey Shore. This dream of mine is to help inspire individuals to reach their max ability physically, emotionally, and mentally. The goal of our gym is to spread our message of enjoying life to its max potential and finding everyone’s inner beauty. We hope to grow and become a popular gym along the Jersey Shore. On a personal note I am training to compete on American Ninja Warrior and hope to compete at the CrossFit Games within the next five years.