Today we speak to Talia Tomarchio, a senior Computer Science major with a minor in neuroscience and an honors concentration. A Burlington County native, Talia is a transfer student from Rowan College at Burlington County, and a first-generation college student who lives off-campus in an apartment. Before COVID-19, she was a tutoring monitor for the computer science department and a front desk assistant. She is also a part of the Association of Computing Machinery’s Committee on Women, and Rowan’s Equestrian Team. Talia is also a winner of Rowan’s 2020 Idea Challenge.
What wakes you up in the morning?
Two things. One would be helping others. I really want to inspire women to be comfortable in a male-dominated industry. My other passion would probably be neuroscience, the subject I’m studying for my minor. I want to eventually get a job to take artificial intelligence or machine learning and integrate it with neuroscience and help the world that way. It’s a stretch, but my goal is to find a way to positively help people’s mental health through computer science. I would love to do that. That is my ultimate goal in life. Maybe I could analyze behavior patterns or create an app to help mental health. I am not sure exactly what I would do, but that is what I want to contribute to society.
How would you tell a fellow student interested in your major that they’re choosing a worthwhile field?
I think Computer Science is growing to be one of the largest majors at Rowan. We’re also accredited by the Computing Accreditation Committee of ABET. I really like the computer science department at Rowan because you know all your professors, so you don’t feel uncomfortable going to them. I think that computer science is a worthwhile degree to earn because there are so many options for fields to go into. For example, there are fields such as cybersecurity, data science, and artificial intelligence. There are many paths a computer science graduate can go down, and the degree is always going to be valuable.
What inspired you to know that you were in the right major for you?
I’ve always wanted to go into computer science, even as a little kid. I have always been good with computers. I wasn’t pushed toward the field, I just enjoy it. Nobody in my family ever had a technical background either. I always wished I could learn how to program or code or become a software engineer, but I never had the confidence to do it. I traveled for a little while after my first year of college, and then I decided to “go for it” after I returned. I think that the support from the computer science department faculty at Rowan really helped me build my confidence.
Has there been a faculty or staff member that’s really helped you to connect with the next step for your career?
The first one would be Dr. Anthony Breitzman, the Data Science Coordinator for the Computer Science Department. I performed research with him this semester on analyzing Myers-Briggs personality types through Twitter tweets. When you do research, you usually are a graduate student. I was a little intimidated because I was an undergrad, but Dr. Breitzman reassured me contrary to my perfectionist mentality, that I don’t have to know everything right now and that I will always be learning even after I graduate. I also asked him for career advice, on what kind of career path options I could go down. Working with him really helped build my confidence.
The second person would be Dr. Kristen diNovi, the Assistant Dean of the Honor’s College. She has been so supportive of me for all of my endeavors, and so helpful every time I asked her for advice. She connected me with Dr. Susana Santos and the Entrepreneurship Department in the Rohrer College of Business. They helped me grow Steminist Squad, my nonprofit organization that won the 2020 Rowan Idea Challenge.
How was your transition into Rowan?
My first time going to college, I went to Rutgers out of high school. Then, I took some time off and I traveled the country. I lived in Florida and on the West Coast for a bit, and then I came back and decided to finish school. I am a bit older than the average undergraduate student, but I feel that it made me take my studies more seriously. The transition to Rowan was really great. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed because I wanted to be involved in everything. I tried to take on more clubs and activities and classes than I could handle, but I overcame it with the support of the Computer Science Department faculty and staff. Micheal Schillo, my advisor, and Dr. Jennifer Kay, a professor in the department, told me it is okay to slow down. With their support, I was able to realize that I did not need to be involved in every single club and activity. From that experience, my advice to other students that feel overwhelmed is to seek support and utilize your resources, because they are there at Rowan, and know that it’s OK if you are not perfect.
I think it goes back to the fact that everyone knows everyone here. At first, I wanted to go to a big school, but I felt like I was just a number there. Rowan’s faculty to student ratio is perfect for me. I can get personalized help or tutoring or raise my hand in class at Rowan. I like the small school feeling at Rowan, even though Rowan isn’t small.
Like what you see?
Rachel Rumsby, sophomore communication studies, and public relations double major
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Talia Tomarchio, senior computer science major