Denver native Ariel Aguilar embarked on her college education as an open option engineering student at CU-Boulder. Uncertain about which path she wanted to follow, she enrolled in the college’s flexible first-year curriculum and then gravitated toward computer science because she thought it offered a good foundation in computing that could be applied to a variety of careers.
She quickly found herself getting interested in what people were thinking when they came up with new software tools, so she decided to follow the Human-Centered Computing track in computer science. The HCC track involves the design and evaluation of computing systems that support creativity, collaboration, communication, and other social processes.
She also made her way across campus to the psychology department to begin a second bachelor’s degree through the College of Arts & Sciences.
Aguilar also started to meet people involved with the ATLAS Institute on campus, which offers various programs and certificates, including a master’s degree in information and communication technology (ICT) for development that has her intrigued. She sampled the field by helping a graduate student present her research on the PartoPen, a digital technology tested with women in Nairobi, Kenya, to help meet maternal health needs by making record-keeping simple and efficient.
“I loved the project because it was doing such good things,” Aguilar says. “I think that the evolution and spread of disease by malpractice caused by a lack of information can be reduced over time with the aid of technology.”
Meanwhile, Aguilar has been doing some of her own research in the area of language acquisition. She wrote an undergraduate thesis for her computer science major on computational models for how children acquire language, looking at the roles of phonology versus semantics. This year, she plans to expand the work into a case study for her psychology major.
As if that weren’t enough, she also has discovered an interest in African dance through other courses she has taken to fill core requirements. Aguilar says she has been able to stay on track to graduate in four years thanks to Summer Session courses.
“I never imagined myself being here,” she says of the path she has made for herself through the university, “but I made a lot of really great friends in the computer science department. There are some amazing faculty here, and the department is my home on campus.”
She also was fortunate to get an internship at USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio, Texas, which has been rated the best place to work in IT by Computerworld for the last three years.
“I would like to get some more experience in industry and then go back and get a PhD,” she says.