When I first came to Chapman University, my intent was to play basketball. My GPA at the time was lower than most students, 2.9 overall. Although my passion for basketball got me an acceptance letter, I was admitted on academic probation. I was going to have to prove myself.
Since I’ve always liked math, I considered doing something in engineering but Chapman doesn’t offer an engineering program. Initially my plan was to become a math professor. I had no idea, at the time, how my plans would change.
After a few months, I realized my chances of playing professional basketball were slim. I decided to quit basketball to focus on school. My first semester at Chapman was rough. No more basketball and I was taking two math courses. I ended up with a 2.8 GPA.
One math professor in particular, Dr. Mohamed Allali, was really good. I enjoyed his class. After I received a perfect score on my first math test, there was no need for me to try (or so I thought). I figured since I scored so high I didn’t need to work too hard the rest of the semester. That notion was ridiculous. Dr. Allali would write on my assignments, “You’re a math major; this is unacceptable. Hold yourself to a higher standard.” Even though I stopped trying, Dr. Allali never gave up on me.
One day he advised me to take his upper division math course. He told me he thought I would do well. Thinking back, it was his personal attention that inspired me to try harder in class. I received my first academic A in that class. I was eager to prove to Dr. Allali that I could continue to be a good student. I took every math course he offered and continued to push myself. My goal was to complete my degree as soon as possible.
To obtain a math degree, Computer Science II is a requirement. I took the course with Dr. Erik Linstead. Initially, our personalities clashed. The course was extremely rough. To this day it remains the hardest class I took at Chapman. It was so difficult that I debated changing majors, changing schools or even failing the course and taking it at a junior college. Somehow, I made it through.
By my junior year, I was ready for Dr. Linstead’s Data Structures and Algorithms course. I sat in the front row. I read discussion sections prior to class. I had all the answers. When Dr. Lindstead would pick on me, in a fun way, it motivated me even more. I ended up receiving the highest grade on the midterm. I was so immersed in his class, I didn’t realize I started to develop a real passion for computer science.
What I couldn’t see at the time was that my professors were pushing me to succeed. Dr. Linstead’s playful banter taught me to consider all possible solutions before speaking. His sarcastic comments about my major (math) were his way of pushing me toward computer science.
My relationship with Dr. Linstead grew exponentially. He showed me how to improve my chances of getting into graduate school. He even wrote a letter of recommendation. I was accepted into the UC Irvine master’s program in computer science. Dr. Linstead pulled me aside and said, “This is a two year program. If you look at the number of units you have to take, you can finish it in a year and a quarter.” His confidence pushed me to great heights. This professor had become one of my greatest friends.
I must praise and thank Dr. Allali and Dr. Linstead. They shaped my life forever. It’s because of them that I was awarded the Senior Award in Mathematics from Chapman.
Eventually, I was offered an internship at Google in the summer of 2013. I was one of the first programmers to work with Google Glass. Today, I work in Newport Beach as a software engineer. I still talk to Dr. Linstead on a regular basis.
Chapman professors are special. They invest their time in each student. I can remember sending an email to Dr. Linstead one night at 2 a.m. It was right before finals and I was stuck on a problem. I assumed he would respond in the morning. Within a few minutes he sent a response to my question. In true Linstead fashion he added, “You should have known that solution.”
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