Graduating Senior Spotlight: Q&A with Jacynda Alatoma

Jacynda Alatoma smiles at the camera with a white background

Hometown: Eden Prairie, MN

Majors: Computer Science BS & Statistical Science BS

Activities you are involved in: Tom Burnett Leadership Program 

Did you participate in any student organizations, Learning Abroad programs, research or internship opportunities, or other related experiences? How have you learned from them?

I’m involved in the Tom Burnett Leadership Program (TBLP) and have also been a TA for the past four semesters of STAT 3011 and CSCI 1113. Both of these experiences have definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. Coming into college, I was super introverted and couldn’t even speak in front of a group of five people. When I pushed myself to apply to become a TA, it was a huge deal for me. I knew I wanted to challenge myself in a new way and thought this would be the best opportunity. 

By pushing myself, I was also nominated by my advisor to participate in the TBLP. I’m glad she saw the potential I had as a leader and recognized how hard I pushed myself. I’ve learned how so many different people think about topics such as vulnerability, fear, leadership, and more. Through these experiences, I’m leaving UMN as a better person and hope to inspire others to push themselves out of their comfort zones!

How would you describe your time in your major?

It was challenging, but also very rewarding. I knew going into it that double majoring in two STEM heavy topics would be difficult, but nothing really prepares you until you’re in the thick of it. However, I’ve met and made so many friends through my majors who are all amazing people that are going on to do great things. Even though I’ve spent countless hours in the Keller Hall labs, those hours I spent with friends are some of my most memorable times in my major. 

I also discovered a new interest of mine that I am now going into for graduate school: data science! Without being in these majors, this is something I would’ve never pursued. I’m glad that all of my hard work and the hours I’ve put into my major have paid off!

If you could go back and give your first-year self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Be okay with failing. I definitely came into college with the mindset that I could ace everything if I tried my hardest. The reality is, even putting in your best effort won’t always be perfect. This is something I really had to get used to. Now I’m better at looking at my failures and learning about the situation instead of getting upset over it. Sometimes laughing over the little dumb mistakes you make makes all the difference. I also started using the resources available to me more towards the end of my academic career, which is something I wish I would’ve taken advantage of earlier. 

Is there an app you hate but use anyways?

This is probably cliché, but my answer would be TikTok. I think I spend way too much of my time on there on nights when I probably could be doing better things. I also tend to be pretty gullible, so I start to believe a lot of the fake “facts” on there! It isn’t all bad though; it has given me a lot of room and outfit inspiration throughout the years! 

What's next for you? What are your post-graduation plans?

I will be a Gopher for a couple more years while pursuing my master’s in data science with a minor in data science in multi-messenger astrophysics! I am also interning as a technology summer analyst at Accenture in Minneapolis this upcoming summer.

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