Student Story

CompleteDegree student Anisha Srivastava ’23 on Finding Space and Time for STEM

Why did you decide to attend [email protected]?

CompleteDegree stood out as the perfect opportunity to build a new foundation in computer science. During my first bachelor’s degree, I took a semester off for a web development bootcamp. That experience introduced me to a new world and I continued to learn by self-teaching computer science and software engineering concepts. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business in 2018, I went on to work at Apple as a software engineer. I I felt so lucky to be there and I felt eager to prove that I deserved the position. But that approach — and my Imposter Syndrome — wasn’t conducive to learning, and it was very challenging and stressful. I had such a hard time that first year that I left the tech industry, thinking it wasn’t a good fit after all. For two years I explored other realms, but ultimately the curiosity and the pull toward computer science was still there. I just needed to find the right place to learn and grow. 

In 2021, I started looking at programs and was amazed to find Simmons, because it felt like a real classroom experience brought online, not separate from the rest of the program. This seemed uniquely suited to what I needed, including Simmons’ support of women in STEM and technology. The opportunity to be a part of a community of women was inspiring. That made a big difference.

Tell us about your Complete degree experience thus far. 

The small class sizes make it easy to cultivate relationships with fellow students and professors. You feel safe asking questions and helping each other. I feel at ease talking to my professors. People may think you get less attention from faculty members in an online program, but the faculty have been incredible and very supportive. 

All of the professors I’ve had at Simmons really want to help you succeed. They help remove some of the fear and self-doubt that can come with learning STEM. From my previous experience in the technology industry, I had this idea that there is an exclusive club of people who understand this material, and that leads to imposter syndrome. My professors help unravel some of those limiting beliefs, reminding us that we are capable and that learning simply takes time. I didn’t believe that before, but I do now. 

My classes are never an intimidating or stressful experience. Associate Professor Aspen Olmsted taught my Computing Systems course, which was challenging but he was so encouraging and supportive. We could share questions on our learning platform and he would respond that same day with thorough, easy-to-understand explanations. 

I also took a class with Adjunct RoxAnn Stalvey, and she was so approachable, you could ask her anything! She really took time to break down concepts and she made class a fun experience. This semester, I had Adjunct Roberta Osborne for Discrete Mathematics. I once emailed her when I was really stuck on a problem and she responded with detailed suggestions and guidance within an hour. I feel so grateful to have professors who care so much about our learning. 

Any advice for prospective students considering a return to school/online courses?

The idea of pivoting is scary. Sometimes we take the beliefs we have about ourselves and rule out certain options. For me, computer science was one of those things. I encourage any prospective students to try to be open and to be willing to expand the definition of what their capabilities may be. Who knows what this degree could open up for you? Take some time to think about how much your life could change if you are open to trying something new.

Also, be open to challenging any preconceptions you may have around the idea of online education, in terms of its legitimacy or rigor. These options have become more normalized, and the flexibility of online programs might be the reason you are able to pursue continued education — I may not have returned to computer science if I didn’t find CompleteDegree. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you’re going to compromise.

How is Simmons preparing you to become an everyday leader?

My Simmons experience has allowed me to take time and space to learn. In my previous experience in computer science, I was constantly evaluating myself and my progress, always afraid that I wasn’t learning fast enough. I felt so much pressure to learn things now. My experience at Simmons is rewriting that narrative. Learning computer science — and anything else — is a journey and, while challenging, it doesn’t have to come with a level of pressure that ultimately inhibits learning. By encouraging us to take time and space to learn, my professors have shown us a good model for how to get the best work out of ourselves and others. 
 

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