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Waubonsee Featured Students Help Plan Campus Technology

Two young men stand in front of computer network wiring
For their outstanding scholastic achievements and contributions to the Strategic Technology Advisory Committee, Andrew Baron (left) and Devin Nelson have been named Waubonsee Community College’s Featured Students for September.

Waubonsee Community College works hard to listen to the voices of its students, and so it is fairly common to find student representatives serving on college-wide committees. But there is nothing common about the two students currently serving on the  Strategic Technology Advisory Committee (STAC). At just 19 years old, Andrew Baron, of Oswego, and Devin Nelson, of Aurora, have brought an impressive level of enthusiasm and expertise to the group, and so the college is proud to honor them as Featured Students for September. 

STAC is a 20-member committee charged with giving advice and input in regards to the college’s Technology Strategic Support Plan, technology standards and emerging technologies. When it was time to recruit students, team member and Information Systems Instructor Tim Moriarty walked over to a nearby meeting of the Mathematical-Engineering Club and asked for volunteers. Answering the call were Baron and Nelson, past students of Moriarty’s. 

“As the two students who are part of the STAC, they have presented themselves quite well and have vocalized the students’ perspective when it comes to technology initiatives at the college,” Moriarty said. “They are a credit to Waubonsee and have bright futures ahead of them.”

Baron’s future is already shaping up a bit differently than he had originally planned. Home-schooled his entire life, Baron began taking dual credit courses from Waubonsee in fall 2010. His first course was criminal justice because he intended to pursue a career in computer forensics. However, after a counselor told him computer science may be a better entry into the field, Baron took Introduction to Programming with Moriarty and found a new passion.

“I just really enjoy the logic behind programming,” Baron said. “I can’t write code that quickly yet, but I am very organized and particular about my code structure.”

And while Baron has been impressed with some of the particulars of the STAC, including the campus’ data warehouse project, he values the general characteristics even more. 

“Just getting a sense of the general business environment and decision making — that experience has been priceless,” Baron said. 

Also priceless are some of the instructors Baron has had along the way, including Associate Professor of Mathematics Mark Crawford.  “He has us learn a concept first and then do problems later,” Baron said. “You really have to think, but if you’re willing, you learn so much more.”

After graduating from Waubonsee this semester, Baron plans to learn more at Northern Illinois University, where he’ll study enterprise software development. If his schedule allows it, he plans to continue serving on Waubonsee’s STAC. 

Fellow STAC student representative Devin Nelson has always been interested in technology. As a student at West Aurora High School, he built computers to maximize his gaming experiences and eventually took a C++ programming class his senior year. 

Having earned Waubonsee’s prestigious Gustafson Scholarship, Nelson started at the college last fall and quickly expanded his programming skills, taking advanced C++ and Java. 

“Waubonsee’s teachers are very committed,” Nelson said. “Some of my friends went away to school and just weren’t getting that intimate experience with their instructors. Here teachers are in it for the passion.”

Of course, experience can be the best teacher, and Nelson is getting a lot of that while working at a local technical support company that fields calls for a variety of products and services, including Motel 6’s WiFi and Archos tablets. The company also provides user support for some interactive whiteboard products, making Nelson a valuable contributor during the STAC’s recent discussion about that teaching/learning technology. 

But while Nelson has contributed his knowledge to Waubonsee’s technology efforts, he has also learned something too. 

“It’s a great opportunity to get to know the inner workings of technology on campus,” Nelson said. “I’ve been impressed with the number of people involved, the new projects and the stuff getting done.”

Nelson plans to graduate this spring and then move on to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to study some form of engineering. 

“Both Devin and Andrew exemplify what I consider to be a great student,” Crawford said. “They are enthusiastic about their studies, insightful, and both of them have persevered through some difficult challenges. I wish them both a successful future.”

At this point, successful futures for both Baron and Nelson seem less like a wish and more like a guarantee.