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Liz Lawrens on her new beginnings in tech
Liz Lawrens on her new beginnings in tech

Liz was eight years into a career as a software engineer at IBM when she and her husband and two young children moved from India to Oregon. As she began to look for work, however, Liz discovered that her field of study in India (electrical engineering), would not transfer as readily to a new career in the U.S. 

After researching her options online, Liz decided that a master’s degree in Computer Science was what she needed. And in the New Beginnings program, she could speed through school and into a new career in just two years.

The differences of school here in the U.S., Liz found, were intense at first, but ended up providing an affirming experience. “The community at Portland State was very inclusive and with a lot of diversity and people from all over the world,” she said. Liz also noted that the differences between the U.S.’s education system and India’s—in her take, less emphasis on book learning and more on participation and group work—meant that she made friends very quickly.

As soon as she entered the New Beginnings program, Liz was paired up with “study buddies,” classmates with whom Liz would weather the intense curriculum that provides students with what Liz called a solid foundation in Computer Science. “I needed to become familiar with the theoretical and algorithmic components of Computer Science, which were new to me at the time,” Liz said. The master’s track in Computer Science, Liz soon realized, would build upon this groundwork in the theories and mathematics behind the program. 

Once Liz had gained footing through New Beginnings, her own theories on Computer Science evolved when she picked out a focus topic: Databases. “Some people are totally into the technology itself,” she explained. “But for me technology is nothing but a means to achieve something for the good. I want to use technology to achieve something that is useful for the community.” 

Through the New Beginnings program, Liz was connected with both a Graduate Teaching Assistantship once she entered the master’s program—an arrangement that provides a stipend and tuition remission in exchange for graduate student work—and a job at Intel when she graduated.

While she is eager to start her exciting new job as a Software Engineer, Liz predicted that bonds she’d made while in graduate school would last forever. “I will miss PSU, all the people here and my friends,” Liz said. “This was a really amazing place for me.”

We wish Liz the best of luck in her final term at PSU, and with her future endeavors!

Ready for your own fresh start? Find out more about Portland State’s New Beginnings program.

We are also now accepting applications for the Graduate Program in Computer Science.