Malinda Miller, Computer Sciences & Art

Malinda Miller in

Year in school (and/or when you expect to graduate): Graduated Dec. 2019
Hometown: Owen, WI

Why did you pursue degrees in both of your areas? Why did you add the second one (if you did)?
They were both areas that I enjoyed and I didn’t feel that I had enough knowledge about either of them to dedicate all of my studies to just one.   I didn’t feel comfortable leaving either behind.  It was also a practical decision to an extent – the two majors provided a nice balance of coursework that kept me interested and from burning out since I was taking a lot of classes, and it also means I can now seek opportunities for my future in a wider range of fields.

Which major came first? Or did you decide to pursue them both at the same time?
I started college with a strong interest in both of my majors, albeit for different reasons.  Although each respective interest developed at a different rate during my college career (sometimes I would focus on one), the decision to pursue them both was an idea I’d had at the very beginning.

How do the two work together?
My majors are honestly quite different.  One of the perks I experienced was that having these two very different types of classes kept me from becoming disinterested or bored with any one topic; when I tired of working on technical or mathematical projects, I could switch to one that used another sort of creativity in my art major.   There is also an interesting intersection of people – in my art major, sometimes the technical perspective of computer science was useful to my professor and classmates, and vice versa.  Practically speaking, a lot of my focus in my art major is moving towards the digital realm (animation, for example).  Even though the computer science skills I have are not necessary to be an animator, it has come in handy with helping me understand the software I’m using on more than one occasion, and the potential now exists for me to create my own tools as well.   Another example is when I had an art class that required me to build a website, and my ability to code was useful.

Do you have career plans? If so, how do you think these two degrees will help you in the future?
At the moment, I’m headed towards a career heavily based in computer science as a Software Engineer, but I’m open to seeing where the road takes me.  My computer science degree is of obvious value there. The soft skills I gained as an art major (ability to write, communicate, use my network, critique effectively, think outside of the box, and manage time) have all been useful as well; it also always interests people, even in computer science based interviews, to learn that I’m also a glassblower.  It’s such a unique skill set, and the diversity in methodology that it brings to a team is fascinating.   It has given me more than one way to solve problems, and to approach life in general. It can be a struggle to find employment after graduation – having more than one field of interest broadens that search space, and is very useful for practical reasons.

Was it difficult to get classes for both majors? And/or to finish on time? 
It wasn’t overly difficult to get placement in the required classes; I found that it was easier to get into art classes than computer science, and some high-level computer science classes fill up very quickly (since the department is experiencing a lot of growth).  I don’t think being a double major has any bearing on that, however.  As for finishing on time, it was definitely grueling at times.  During my academic career, I was consistently aiming for 18 credits every semester for 4 years.  Part of the reason for this is that my two areas of study are very disparate – there isn’t much overlap in the degree requirements themselves, so the amount of advanced classes I needed to take was doubled.  Although I could have just barely graduated in 4 years, I took an extra final semester to pursue some interests I hadn’t been able to previously and also to prepare for what happens after graduation.

Was there anything surprising about your path through these two degrees? 
One of the things that stands out to me most about my path is the people I’ve met along the way.  It seems sometimes that each discipline is its own little world with its own type of people, and having the perspective and experience of two of them has given me a perspective I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  I think everyone in a discipline should push those boundaries in their studies a bit; if you’re a computer science major, challenge yourself with a hands-on class in metals, glass, or ceramics, and vice versa.  The diversity in the range of people you’ll meet as well as the personal knowledge of yourself you’ll gain makes it so worth it.  None of us, as people, have only one singular ability; we have many – some we are aware of, others waiting to be discovered.  This is where the richness of life comes from.  Similarly, the thing about these majors that we commit ourselves to studying is that in the real world, they are all intertwined, sometimes in very interesting ways.  That software engineering recruiter might have a family member who’s a glassblower.  That artist might be able to teach you how how AR works, or how to program an Arduino.   We have artists that need computer scientists, and computer scientists that need artists.  It’s a strength to have some knowledge of both.  In conclusion, although it is good and practical to have some focus in a discipline, be careful that it doesn’t close you off from other worldviews, because everything is connected and an outside perspective is a useful strength.