FULL DISCLAIMER: When I asked to interview Vanessa for this week’s issue of The Neural Network, I had no idea how amazing she was. After getting to chat with her for over an hour, I became enamored with how Vanessa views and interacts with our world. If this issue of the NN seems particularly gushy and complimentary, I encourage you to go chat with Vanessa to find out why I think she’s so wonderful.
Vanessa was born into a huge family in Orange County, CA, but later moved to Utah with her parents. Upon recognizing that she was unhappy in Utah, she dropped everything, moved away from everything she knew, and came to Colorado. After bouncing around, Vanessa started working in the counseling office at CU. When a position opened up in the CS department, Vanessa jumped at the opportunity to see the academic aspects of CU (the day I spoke to Vanessa was the 1 year anniversary of when she started working in CS!). Her enthusiasm for her job is inspiring and contagious, and she eagerly told me how rewarding her job is. Vanessa loves helping people, and loves the challenge of determining the best way to help every person who walks through her door.
At one point in our conversation Vanessa casually mentioned that people always like asking her what she did over the weekend, because it was always interesting. This intrigued me, and upon asking I was surprised to hear that Vanessa had: volunteered at a cider and bluegrass festival, done archery and axe throwing, won a tricycle race, and was going to a kickboxing lesson that night. Vanessa is intentional and reflective about all facets of her life, and applies this attitude of “getting it done” to everything from the request to make 500 copies of an exam, to learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.
It is so important to understand that we are all fighting in our own ways. Vanessa is passionate about the importance of understanding our privileges and how they impact our differing perspectives. We all come from different backgrounds with different motivations, and learning to reconcile these differing perspectives will start the conversations necessary to solve a lot of the problems in the world today.
Vanessa can back squat and deadlift 110 pounds. She is 3/4 hispanic, but has had ancestors living in the US since 1704. She is also a self proclaimed nerd, the 1994 Pog state champion, an Xbox gamer, a Dungeon Master, and a board game fanatic.
“It costs next to nothing to be nice to someone, to brighten their day—it might mean the world to them.” Even when Vanessa is sad, or tired, or overwhelmed, she still takes time to recognize that even though that is how she is feeling, everyone else is also fighting their own battles. It’s important for us to choose to help one another through these battles, to devote quality time and attention to those around us, and make that extra effort to try to brighten someone’s day.
“What’s the thing you've always wanted to do but no one wants to go with you?” Vanessa can help you fix that. “I’m slowly transitioning into Wonder Woman, I think.” This was one of my favorite quotes from our conversation, and it is so true. Vanessa goes above and beyond to help our community. Next time you see her, make sure to thank Vanessa for all that she does.