My name is Thomas Griffin and I’m a junior who attended Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m currently majoring in Computer Science and French, and leaning towards minoring in math.
I chose SMU for engineering for a variety of reasons, but most importantly they seemed to be interested in having their students develop a broad variety of interests, as opposed to the more “paint-by-numbers” approach other schools seemed to have. When I talked with representatives from other colleges, and read their materials, I got the impression that everyone did the exact same thing – all Computer Science majors took the same classes at the same times, etc. Instead of forcing me to fit the mould, SMU gave me the opportunity to take my own path. This was important to me because, as I mentioned, I’m also a French major. I consider this every bit as important as my CS studies, and SMU was the only school to really encourage me to study both. This really drew me to SMU, in addition to the co-op program as well as the huge variety of other clubs and activities.
This past year, the spring of ’11, I took the adventure I had been planning on ever since I started learning another language- a semester abroad. I spent four solid months in another country as a part of the school’s own program, SMU-in-Paris, which made the whole process a relative breeze. After a short application and some legal paperwork during the fall, I was cleared for my next semester in France. SMU handled finding a good host family, guaranteed that all the classes I took abroad would count for credit here, and generally took a lot of worries out of the whole process.
I lived in a nice apartment with a nice older lady in the 8th arrondissement, only a 15 minute walk away from the Arc de Triomphe and the famed shopping street of the Champs Elysées. My classes were focused mostly on history and French language/literature, but there were also several art and political science courses offered. Through these courses, I has opportunities that can’t be had as a normal tourist, like visiting the chambers of the French and the EU’s legislatures, and getting to see the assembly floor of an Airbus manufacturing plant in the south of France. I also had plenty of chances to travel on my own such as visiting some family friends on the Mediterranean coast. I even went skiing in the Alps. Needless to say, it was all an incredible adventure.
The next semester, instead of returning to campus, I took a job offer to work full-time for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in Austin. I was part of the Test Software Engineering team, which was responsible for writing the software tests that ran on every processor before it was shipped out. Most of my work, however, was focused on improving the software framework we used to communicate with the processor itself. I had to learn a lot of things about hardware architecture and working with large code libraries very quickly, which is where my academic experience at SMU came in handy. The professors at are very encouraging of learning on your own and picking up new things quickly, which are obviously valuable skills in the professional world. By the end of the semester, I had gained experience in a wide range of areas, from test writing to hardware structure, and had created a large improvement that was used by dozens of other people in our testing teams every day. I really enjoyed my time there and was offered to return, but turned them down in favor of another co-op tour this next summer in computer security.
When I am on campus, I spend most of my free time participating in several of SMU’s student organizations. I actively recruit for the engineering school through Ambassadors for Prospective Engineering Students (aka APES), I’m a member of the club tennis team and travel to tournaments several times a semester, and finally, a member of the Ballroom dance team, where we learn, practice, and compete in a number of ballroom and social dances. I don’t think my experience here at SMU would’ve been possible at other schools, and that’s why I think SMU is the best choice for any student that wants to do more than just engineering in their time in college.