Jessica Gurley Wins Scholarships for Computer Science Conferences in Boston, San Francisco
New Mexico Highlands University computer science graduate student Jessica Gurley participated in cutting-edge computer science conferences in Boston and San Francisco in April.
Gurley, a 31-year-old Las Vegas native, was awarded full scholarships to attend the Computer Research Association — Women Grad Cohort 2011 in Boston, and the annual Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference in San Francisco.
“I left the Grad Cohort completely inspired and even more certain that I want to be a software engineer,” Gurley said. “At the Richard Tapia conference, there were fun and fascinating technical workshops for students. Google engineers also gave mock interviews, which was terrifying but also a great experience.”
Gurley said she’d never been to Boston or San Francisco before, calling it surreal to have these computer science learning opportunities in such beautiful cities.
The first-year graduate student works full-time in the university’s International Education Center. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and women’s studies with honors from New Mexico State University.
“I took an introduction to computer science class at Highlands and fell in love with the programming part of computer science,” said Gurley, who is president of the Highlands Computer Science Club. “Computer science is an intellectual challenge and I like that. It’s so satisfying when I learn a different programming language.”
“Jessica has the aptitude and potential to excel in the computer science profession, and I have no doubt that she will,” said computer science professor Hossein Tahani, her adviser. “She’s very talented academically and is eager to learn. She’s also extremely dedicated.”
Gurley said: “It’s so helpful to have a mentor and adviser like Dr. Tahani. He wants me to succeed. For example, he will patiently sit with me and go over programming code with me line by line.”
This was especially important for Gurley, whose undergraduate education was in such different disciplines. She said the learning curve was steep for computer science, and the small class sizes at Highlands also helped her succeed. She’s earned A’s in every computer science class she’s taken.
“It’s great that Highlands pays tuition for its employees,” Gurley said. “It’s a huge incentive for furthering your education.”
Gurley just learned that Google awarded her a full scholarship to attend the Google Scholars Retreat In July at its corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Tahani wrote Gurley yet another letter of recommendation for this scholarship.