Major: Computer and Information Science
When it came time for college, Lashawna Harris decided to pursue computer science, in which she became interested years ago.
Unfortunately, her school experience did not go as expected.
“Due to the rising cost and lack of representation of women of color in computer science, I decided to quit school,” she said.
Harris considers it fate that computer science came back into her life while working for a previous employer.
“The IT person requested that I assist her with some of the tech support aspects of her job for our team,” she said. “Because I gained on-the-job technical experience, I was then asked by management to represent the company as a volunteer at coding events for a major nonprofit our company partnered with. At these events, there were women who could code and the atmospheres would be awesome. I knew I wanted to be a part of such an esteemed group.”
Returning to school, Harris selected College of DuPage and transferred some of her previous credits. She also liked the affordability of the 3+1 Computer and Information Science program, a partnership with Lewis University that allows students to earn a baccalaureate degree through Lewis on COD's campus.
What she found at COD was a strong community that focused on her success.
“There were many scholarship opportunities, great tutoring and clubs, and the faculty really cared,” she said. “2020 was a very difficult year for the country and especially for my family. We lost so many loved ones and I had a moment in which I did not think I could carry on, yet the instructors gave me time to get the assignments in and I appreciate them for that.”
Harris also received a STEM Student Success Scholarship, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, which covered tuition for her final year. In 2021, she enjoyed a summer internship at Argonne National Laboratory, where she worked on web applications that analyze traffic and vehicle use.
“The best thing about the internship was doing the hands-on work,” she said. “It was great to take the knowledge I had gained at COD and apply it in a professional setting, which prepared me for my future education and career.”
Harris earned an Associate in Applied Science, graduated with high honors, and was recognized by faculty for excellence during the College’s annual Celebration of Academic Excellence. She is now working on her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, after which she plans to complete a graduate degree with a focus on artificial intelligence. Her goal is to research how to eradicate bias in computer algorithms.
Harris strongly recommends COD and advises students to get connected.
“Hard work and dedication pay off. Create an educational plan. Calculate the cost. Apply for internal and external scholarships and grants. Most importantly, don’t give up,” she said. “COD more than met my expectations of what a community college offers.”