Archive for September, 2017

Sep 21 2017

A glimpse into the life of a student athlete

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(This post was authored by Ms. Susie Jeziorowski)

One of the toughest decisions a high school level student athlete must make before graduation is whether they want to continue playing their sport at a collegiate level. When I was making my decision, I sought advice from my coaches, teachers, parents and especially my sister who had previously played Division I volleyball and studied nursing at Marquette University. The advice was all unanimous. Playing collegiate volleyball is such a unique opportunity that not many people can experience, and turning down any scholarship offering would be a waste of a blessing.

Before visiting Tech, I had also been talking to the coaches at Missouri University of Science & Tech, a Division II university in Rolla, Missouri known for its impressive engineering and computer science programs. After going to see Missouri S&T, I was convinced that I was going to commit to the school because of its high prestige, however I had decided to still have my official visit to Tech just to see what it was like. Having grown up in northern Illinois, my family had never been to Tennessee nor ever heard of Tennessee Tech, so the thought of potentially attending school here completely took me out of my comfort zone.

Tennessee Tech entirely exceeded my expectations. Today, I am forever grateful that I had chosen Tech over Missouri. Although Tech’s computer science program may not be one of the top in the nation, I am undeniably proud to be a part of it and extremely thankful to have Dr. Eberle advising me during my collegiate career. Dr. Eberle has assisted me each semester in making a schedule that would work best for my team and I while also assuring me I could complete a double-concentration degree during my three and a half years here. My sister had warned me about the challenges of having to balance academia and athletics, so to have an advisor who is so understanding and invested in my studies is truly remarkable.


Although the strong computer science department and beautiful campus were large factors in my decision, I ultimately chose to play for Tech because of the coaching staff and girls that I met during my visit. They say that your college team becomes your family, and I can certainly attest to that. Now, my teammates are undoubtedly some of my best friends, and Head Coach Dave Zelenock is like a second father to me. During my career thus far, he has certainly improved my volleyball skills, however the impact Dave has made on me extends much further than what happens on the court. Dave has helped me grow as an adult, teaching me how to be a good person and how to deal with the plentiful stressors that come with being a collegiate student. It is certainly rare to see coaches in Division I athletics who care so much and take the time to understand their players like Dave does, and that is what makes Tech feel so much like home.

Being a student athlete in the computer science department certainly has its perks. As members of the team, we get a lot of cool Nike gear, we travel to dozens of new schools and places, we have things like books and food taken care of for us, and we also get to play the sport we love in an incredible facility. In fact, the Hooper Eblen Center is one of if not the best gyms in the entire Ohio Valley Conference! As great as all of this sounds, it comes at a great cost. As a student athlete, I have an entirely different perception of what college is like compared to other regular students.

Each day, my mornings start off with a 5 a.m. alarm. By 5:15, I am leaving my apartment with a granola bar and some hot coffee, struggling to wake myself up in time for practice. Around 5:30, I meet with the rest of my teammates in the locker room to put on our gear and get the nets set up in the gym. We spend the next 15-20 minutes getting ourselves warmed up and ready for practice. If we aren’t warmed up by 6 a.m., you best believe our coaches will get onto us! Dave always expects our team to have our entire attention on volleyball when we step foot in the gym. That’s what makes practice sort of therapeutic for me, even on the days our coaches are being extra hard on us. For about three hours each day, nothing else exists expect volleyball – no class, no boyfriends, no Object Oriented Programming exams, nothing. Those three hours are nice in that regard; however, a bad practice will most likely set me up for a bad rest of the day.

After practice, around 8:30 a.m., I either go to the Athletic Performance Center on campus for strength and conditioning training with our Cross Fit champion trainer, Matt Hewitt, or I go upstairs to the volleyball offices to study film with one of my assistant coaches, Kyle Gamble. From there, I try my best to grab a quick bite and head straight to class. Having chosen one of the toughest majors at Tennessee Tech, doesn’t always work in my favor. Our Computer Science program expects excellence and encompasses a lot of advanced curricula, so one of the largest challenges I face is staying on top of my studies.

Many would think playing on a college sports team would make a good excuse to slack off in class, however our situation is quite the opposite. Our athletic department expects us to excel in our classes and hold close relationships with our professors despite having to miss 20-30% of our lectures during the week. In fact, each athlete is required to attend weekly academic meetings and complete 8 hours of study hall per week to ensure we are successful in the classroom and eligible to play on the court. Thankfully, most professors in the computer science department are very understanding of how much pressure I must face with having ambitious standards yet traveling often. Many record their lectures, which allow me to watch class while I am on the bus and manage my classes a bit better. Coincidently, I am on my way to Ohio with my team as I write this blog.

TTU_Golden Eagles

Being an athlete is tough. Besides balancing out class, practices, workouts, meetings, and film, I often feel physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. It is easy to feel defeated when your body is sore, your mind is tired, and your classes are constantly testing your knowledge and effort. But this ‘grind’ is what makes it all worth it. This ‘grind’ is what is shaping me into a strong, independent, and intelligent person. This ‘grind’, though difficult and somewhat annoying, is perhaps the best thing a college student could ever put themselves through.

Another challenge I face daily is missing out on many collegiate opportunities. Believe it or not, I envy the kids that are able to attend every single class. Frequently, I can’t attend the fun computer science events our department holds, and I envy the students who can make it to every single CyberEagles meeting. Most often, I envy the students who can go out and enjoy themselves on weekdays, and the students who are able to travel home on the weekends. As a student athlete, my time is very limited, and there is rarely a time during the season when friends and family can come before school and sports.

Despite the many challenges of being a volleyball player at Tech, I would not change my situation for anything. Volleyball has pushed my physical and mental toughness, forced me to be healthy, and taught me what it means to work for what you want. Computer Science has brought me wonderful friends, taught me time management, and inspired me to pursue a successful future. Overall, Tennessee Tech University has blessed me with the opportunity to grow as an individual and has become an irreplaceable home. Although it is not the typical college experience, I am grateful for the opportunities Tech has given me, and am beyond excited for my last year and a half. Being a student athlete is a full-time job and a blessing – one that I would undoubtedly recommend.

Check out the Tennessee Tech Women’s Volleyball schedule at



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Sep 13 2017

Why Computer Science?

Published by under student

(This post was authored by Mr. John Simmons.)

My past summer was spent in deep thought of things to come. It did not feel like vacation time due to the worries I had for the future. I was college-bound, set to leave from home for a brand new frontier at Tennessee Tech. Before the fall, however, I was unsure as to how I wanted to mentally grow myself – whether that was through college or some other means entirely. I did know that I wanted to step into the software development scene though and that a college degree could help me do that. No other study quite compared with the possibilities and excitement comprising today’s information technologies.

I was first introduced to programming mid-way through high school. I undertook two courses on object oriented programming with Java. My initial impression, while utterly frustrated at the start, was pleasantly fulfilling after coding my first algorithm. The rest of the year went by in a blur of sweat, blood, and tears. I did break away from coding for a year to explore other career fields. I wanted to give physics, mathematics, and english a fair go before I made my final career choice. Personally, nothing quite compared to the thrill I experienced upon project completion in programming class, so I decided to commit to coding as a career at the onset of my high school graduation.

I was entertaining the idea of teaching myself how to code professionally for a while. I finally began doing so by the end of high school, and I still keep up with it albeit not at full capacity anymore. I do have to prioritize my studies after all, but I digress. I admit the thought of teaching myself was complete hubris given I did not even know where to start. I spent my entire life up until now in a school setting with the teachers spoon-feeding me bits of knowledge day after day. Their guidance kept me on track. There was no way I could just up and say “Hey, I am going to teach myself for a change,” and expect that to go anywhere. I did not have the necessary experience to say that I knew what I was doing at home to teach myself, which usually meant googling stuff madly to figure what I was missing for the next step.

I soon realized I was sorely dependent on those around me, teachers especially, when it came to my education. While I was in no way prepared to teach myself, I at least knew that something had to change. I had to learn how to independently learn over the summer. And when I say ‘independently learn’, that means I had to define my own curriculum and set a reasonable pace for working through said curriculum.

In order to tackle these challenges, I needed the soft skills to set goals, schedule my time, focus, be confident, and self-motivate myself. Of the bunch, I felt scheduling and goal-setting were the most crucial. I was decent at scheduling, but I never set that many goals for myself considering my teachers did most of that for me. They were the ones who set the guidelines on how to get things done and the corresponding deadlines for finishing those things in a timely manner. I was helpless in this regard, but I was not without options.


Thankfully at the beginning of the summer, I discovered This website, as its name implies, teaches people how to code for free. Granted, it is not easy nor as simple as it sounds. They do not provide traditional teaching for the subject-matter taught. Campers (the name given to a FreeCodeCamp user) must scour the web and live forums to fill in the knowledge mandatory for the challenging projects offered on the website. I have had weeks of failure before breaking through on a few of these challenges. Failing is pretty normal at the start of every project; the frustration I felt each and every time serves the FreeCodeCamp methodology of being taught the bare minimum so as to struggle through the rest. I was on my own for the most part with a sliver of aide here and there from the website’s community. The goal FreeCodeCamp was not to be taught, but to teach oneself on sheer self-initiative.

What FreeCodeCamp lacks in raw teaching it makes up for in goal-setting; this is what I was lacking in the first place, the capacity to set goals towards a concrete objective. FreeCodeCamp was extremely useful in this regard. The website has a “map” of projects to do, 10 for each of its initially available certifications that all eventually build up into the coveted Full Stack certification.

FreeCodeCamp constantly harps on the read-search-ask process so whenever I got stuck, which happened often, there was still hope for a real answer. I did not mind, though. The goals are what I came and stayed for. I had to teach myself almost everything so I could complete the projects available. Thank goodness for the information era! Although there were moments where unlimited knowledge was not translating into pragmatic understanding.

It was then that I would seek whoever would humor me in the online help chat rooms. Stackoverflow and all the various other coding blogs had great advice for what I needed, but oftentimes the answers were cryptically presented. I knew with each cryptic struggle I had a long way to go in learning how to learn. Past teaching myself, I also had to remind myself how to finish a project rather than giving up halfway due to the stress and uncertainty of it all. It was time to buckle down for a change!

And so, the summer went along excruciatingly as I continued to code during much of my free time. I managed to earn one of the website’s certifications and scratch the surface with the other two certifications that are earnable from the start (completing all three are the prerequisites for earning the Full Stack certification).

I was making leeway, but it was not very expedient. I started to realize that, even as I doing decently well with getting myself to sit down and code for extended periods of time, I was not getting the results I wanted. I then realized that my haphazardly gained knowledge had many holes. There were no real teachers to steer me in the right direction beyond the goals that FreeCodeCamp set for me, so it was hardly surprising that my progress was stunted.

Even so, I knew I needed to fill in these educational holes and understand how to code cleanly, efficiently, and creatively. Looking back at some of my projects, the source code for some of them is horrendous. I had the knowledge, but I did not understand the thinking that went into it. Basically, I was treating programming as a hit-or-miss, get er’ done to-do list instead of a professional work of art.

That is why I am finally here at Tennessee Tech: to adopt the mindset necessary for the Full Stack job I want to land by the time I graduate with my Bachelors in Computer Science. I am still pursuing FreeCodeCamp on the side, but I hope to apply the computer science department mindset to the way I should be coding and thinking about my FreeCodeCamp projects.Capture

As to why I may have chosen somewhere else besides Tennessee Tech to achieve these ends, I cannot give an awe-inspiring answer. Simply put, it was close to home, had a fair reputation, and the price tag for what it has to offer is fair. The size of the campus is perfect as well; I do not have to run around everywhere given how compact everything is. The people here are great too. I hope to build lasting relationships here on campus and in the town of Cookeville.

With so many people around, there are infinitely many ways to network with others! Making friends, attending events, joining a fraternity or sorority, participating in club activities, and competing with peers day-to-day all define the competitive, nurturing atmosphere at Tech. I did not attend Tennessee Tech for these reasons of networking, but they are rapidly becoming part of the best decision I made in choosing to enroll at Tennessee Tech.

All that said, going to college ultimately depends on the person. College is expensive and timely, but foundational and enlightening. Coding bootcamps are quick and pragmatic, but arduous and makeshift. Self-teaching is rewarding and possible, but full of holes and directionless. I personally decided to attend college at Tennessee Technological University. Tech has a proven track record and a multitude of opportunities for contributing to and learning from others. Earning my Bachelor’s from Tennessee Tech may just prove to be one of the best educational decisions I have ever made right behind my commitments to computer programming.


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