Name: Arman Siddiqui
Major: Computer Science | Minor: Analytics
Accomplishments: 2023 Student-Elected Commencement Speaker, MLAT Research Assistant, Boston Dynamics robot dog operator
Chances are, you’ve seen Arman Siddiqui in Swenson Hall. Arman is the one with the permanent smile and positive attitude asking people about their day and remembering details about friends’ important life moments. Kindness and positivity embody Arman, someone with a huge heart always willing to help a student, staff, or faculty member with a project, research, or a community event and shows up with a smile. It’s hard to believe that his college journey of graduating with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Analytics almost didn’t happen.
Journey to Chapman
While in high school, Arman was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which changed his life forever. Having to go from doctor to doctor with one treatment after another, this diagnosis affected every part of his life, resulting in several missed experiences and friendships. Trying to make sense of his diagnosis, Arman found a way to turn something very painful into something positive (which has become his personal motto); he decided he wanted to help others with the same chronic illness and attend medical school.
Growing up in Orange County, Arman stayed close to home and his doctors while he continued his studies at Irvine Valley College, however, after 27 hospitalizations he realized that ultimately medicine was not the path he wanted. He had to shift gears. Thankfully, he had a passion for something else: breaking things.
Like some kids, Arman found enjoyment in breaking things. There was something cathartic about the process: break the item, look at all the parts, then figure out how to put them back together. A process all too familiar for engineers and like others before him, served as that aha moment for Arman. He discovered his next academic journey and quickly began searching for a local university accepting transfer students in spring.
“Chapman University does accept transfer students during spring, they just opened a new engineering school and my uncle and my dad took classes at Chapman. It was a full circle moment,” Arman said with Panther pride. “But, I’d never seen the campus and I was transferring during COVID. Not the ideal situation.”
Community is Where You Make It
Staring at a computer screen during the first semester at a new school is not ideal; however, from the moment Arman clicked on the Zoom link, the anxiety faded and the excitement built. Although he was not in-person or on-campus, he already started to feel the openness from the students and faculty and a community forming. “Chapman is a special place—I felt a sense of community and care even remotely,” said Arman.
With that feeling of community already formed, the transition to in-person classes was seamless. He already knew the students, staff, and faculty because of the constant communication and support, so seeing Chapman’s campus was incredible, especially the Fowler School of Engineering (FSE). Arman reflects, “Seeing Swenson Hall and the Keck Center was an incredibly special moment. It felt like home from the get-go.” He also credits his peers who were willing to be open, and kind, and connect with him almost immediately. After missing experiences post-diagnosis, he felt a deep sense of belonging within the walls of Swenson Hall.
Arman met Dr. Erik Linstead during one of his first classes and that encounter opened doors for involvement in the biggest lab in engineering: Machine Learning and Affiliated Technology (MLAT). “Erik accepted me into MLAT with about 20 or 30 research students where I was able to do research in computer vision. We were creating an algorithm to locate where graffiti is in a community and determine if it was vandalism or art.” Through that experience, Arman learned, “It’s not that research fails to succeed, research simply evolves and changes. Oftentimes you have 100 ideas and only two work.” Working with a small group of research students and Dr. Linstead and Dr. Elizabeth Stevens allowed him to meet new people and get involved early on.
Chapman University is inherently a small institution, but its size offers opportunities to interact with others fairly easily. FSE’s graduating class is a small number of close-knit students who experienced so many things together, including helping to build FSE’s culture of equity and respect. Arman used the word, “reciprocation” to describe the culture. “You are embraced by the faculty and staff within Fowler, everyone is open, selfless, and students are treated with respect and as an equal. Your professor will treat students like an equal and it is reciprocated. This combination of the two creates a loving community – embrace it and it will embrace you.”
He also credits Dean Andrew Lyon for the warm and welcoming environment because it “starts with the person at the top. Andrew takes the time to care about students, be part of that experience, and takes a moment to chat. He really does his due diligence to put Fowler first. He wants feedback and he tries to reassure that students are part of that change.”
Parting Words from the Student-Elected Commencement Speaker
“I’m incredibly honored to be selected. It’s not something that I envisioned and is nothing short of a miracle. It doesn’t feel real, yet,” Arman said. When reflecting upon his position as a leader within his group of peers and offering words of wisdom, he said, “Every opportunity that you don’t take is a missed opportunity. You don’t have to succeed every time to be successful. It’s not about making a perfect shot every time but making the best shot you can. Sometimes we see failed projects, but that is part of the process. Do everything that you think you can do because what you find is that you will get better at doing things during that experience. Reflect back on all the things you’ve done and where it has taken you.”
What’s next for Arman? “Finishing school means getting a job – finding a place to call home for the next few years. A place where I will be treated well and respected just like I am respected at Fowler.”
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Arman Siddiqui for this interview and extend our congratulations on being selected as the Commencement speaker. Arman would like to thank his family: his dad, mom, and little brother. He would also like to thank Katie Rodeghiero for her constant support, his friends here at Chapman, and the faculty and staff at Fowler for treating him as an equal and seeing him as their friend.