July 15, 2024


Built General Tough

SWIC transfer student makes a data-driven decision to study computer science at UMSL – UMSL Daily

Rachel Spearing

Rachel Spearing received the UMSL Community College President’s Scholarship after completing her associate degree in computer science at Southwestern Illinois College with a 3.86 GPA. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Computer science might not strike some people as a creative field, but University of Missouri-St. Louis transfer student Rachel Spearing says crafting coding lets her ingenuity and problem-solving skills shine. 

“I like trying complicated things that are a challenge.” Spearing said. “If you’re given a problem and you have to code a solution, there are a lot of different ways you can code a solution. You have to find the right answer, but there can be multiple paths you can take.”

That’s what first led Spearing to pursue an associate degree in computer science from Southwestern Illinois College.

She had multiple paths she could’ve taken to continue her educational journey after finishing with a 3.86 GPA at SWIC. But UMSL emerged as the clear choice after she received the Community College President’s Scholarship

Awarded jointly by the presidents of the participating St. Louis-area community college campuses and UMSL, the scholarship covers tuition and mandatory fees for up 15 credit hours each in the fall and spring semesters for up to two years. To be selected, students such as Spearing must have earned an associate degree at a community college and have a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0. 

“To me, winning this scholarship has given me a path towards success and financial security in the future,” she said. “It’s given me opportunities to join clubs, connect with others and be part of a thousand other little moments I would’ve missed otherwise.”

Spearing is especially thankful for moments that she’s had with good friends Bryce Paubel and Kara Meyer. She said Paubel was her study partner and helped her with her scholarship essay, and Meyer acted as a mentor to her.

“What always stood out to me was how joyful and excited Kara is about computer science, and just being around her made me more enthusiastic,” Spearing said. “She understood the frustrations of coding, and her encouragement during the rough times was invaluable. Bryce has been the best study partner I could ask for in mathematics classes. I owe a few of my calculus grades to him and his patient explanations.

“They are always inspiring me to work harder and see what I can do better.”

Spearing said she looks forward to connecting to news friends who are UMSL students and is excited about joining them.

“I’ve heard nothing but good things about this school,” she said. “Every time I mention UMSL, people tell me how beautiful the campus is. I remember someone trying to convince me to come here by telling me how excellent the computer science program is. That was reassuring to hear. I knew UMSL could give me a great education, and it was close to my home.”

Spearing plans to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science from UMSL. From there, she hopes to either become a data analyst or graphic designer. 

“I would like to get a job analyzing data to guide companies to make decisions on resources,” she said. “I like the idea of filtering through big data to help companies make decisions.

Making decisions, solving problems and being an independent thinker are traits that Spearing said she gained from being a home-schooled student growing up in Smithton, Illinois.

“Being homeschooled, there were opportunities for researching and studying different topics independently,” she said. “I feel those opportunities helped me develop skills that aided me in college. 

“I don’t feel like your typical genius student. I struggled with certain subjects in high school, but I turned it around in college because I got serious. I knew if I wanted to have a good future I was going to have to work hard for it, to make something of myself. I knew that if I got serious and really worked hard, I could achieve anything I wanted.”


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