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Graduate student brings unique perspective to technology field

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Tara Laughlin ’19 is part of the inaugural cohort of Boeing Graduate Scholars in Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus. During the September 14 groundbreaking ceremony for the Northern Virginia campus, Laughlin who earned her undergraduate degree in computer science and creative technologies, shared her perspective on the importance of diversity in the field of technology.
Hi everybody. My name is Tara. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 with degrees in computer science and creative technologies. I had such a good time at Virginia Tech I just had to return for my third degree, my master's in computer science here at the Innovation Campus. I'm so thankful to be able to be here with you all today, getting to share my story. So a little bit about me. My background before undergrad was actually in art. I had never taken AP Computer Science. I wasn't interested in robotics and I've never built a computer from scratch. So I didn't think it was possible for a student like me to be successful in the program because I didn't fit the mold of what a typical, successful student looked like. But as I continued my education, I learned how valuable my different perspective was and how having my degree in art actually allowed me to thrive. I'm passionate about the software that I develop, but the thing that I care most about is people. I care about how people interact with software and how well they understand how to use it. My goal is to create a movement in the software industry that's focused on accessibility and inclusion. Empathy is the backbone of successful software and creating things with all kinds of people in mind is the direction that I hope this field will go. [applause] Getting to learn from people with different perspectives is also incredibly beneficial. During my time at Virginia Tech, I only had one female computer science professor. But even though it was only one, seeing a successful and confident woman stand up there and speak to us was incredibly empowering. And it made me think that someday I might stand in front of a crowd and get to share my successes in the world of technology. And so this is one of the main reasons that I wanted to return to graduate school. I want to make a difference in the field that I work in, but I honestly just didn't know where to start. And the Innovation Campus answered everything that I'd wanted. This new campus opens doors for the world of technology for people who otherwise would have never gotten the chance to experience it. With the campus located in an area filled with diverse communities, we not only receive a world-class education, but we also gain perspective from each other. And if I've learned anything over the last seven years in my educational and professional journey, it's that we all have something that's worth sharing. I'm so grateful to be able to return to school and I'm really excited to be part of the first group of Boeing Scholars to enroll. Without Boeing's generosity and the new Innovation Campus opening up right in my backyard, this opportunity would not have been possible for me. So I feel really lucky to be a part of Virginia Tech's mission to bring diverse perspectives to the world of technology. Thank you so much, It's been a pleasure.