How do you motivate students in rigorous engineering and computer science programs to make the most of their opportunity? Prof. David Crater says that one way is to remind them what they’re working toward.
Crater, chair of the engineering and computer science department at The Master’s University, has been doing that by inviting professionals in the tech industry to speak to his students.
Past guests have included husband and wife Jeff and Jennifer Cruzan (high-level managers at Microsoft), Matthew Guerra from Amazon, and David Beaman from SpaceX.
“The idea has been to expose our students, as much as possible, to the real world, where what they’re learning is being applied,” Crater said. “It gives them some industry context for the academic things they’re studying — which always helps. It puts flesh and blood on the academic bones, if you will.”
For example, when the Cruzans spoke in September (an event held in conjunction with TMU’s Office of Career Services), they were able to shed light on careers in Big Tech.
Jeff, who serves as a principal group engineering manager at Microsoft, shared insights into daily life as a software engineer, while Jennifer offered insight into what business careers in Big Tech look like from her experience as a senior business manager. They also offered advice regarding key skills students should focus on developing in preparation for life after graduation, including integrity and curiosity.
They emphasized how studying hard as a student during college sets the trajectory for what comes after graduation.
“You cannot overestimate the value that your time in college will have,” Jennifer said. “So many of the things you develop — in terms of discipline and rigor — will come back to you in your career. There’s a great opportunity to instill that while you’re in college and have the support of your classmates and professors. You can’t be in a better place than TMU, honestly.”
This emphasis on hard work is one of Crater’s primary goals with these seminars.
“At every one of these events, I say, ‘You’re not going to stroll into Microsoft and get an internship or a job if you haven’t really studied and know what you’re talking about,’” Crater says. “Internships and jobs at places like that are highly competitive. So students hear what life is like at an elite software company and hopefully take away some motivation to really study hard.”
And even more importantly, Crater wants his students to see examples of Christian faith lived out in these careers.
“Anytime I find an authentic Christian out there in the tech world, I want to try and develop connections with them. Now we have a network of professionals in the tech world who can help model for our students what it looks like to be a believer in that space.”
The hope is that someday soon Crater’s graduates will return to campus to encourage another generation of students.
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