Computer science student earns coveted scholarships
MARIETTA, Ga. (May 23, 2017) — Earning a prestigious scholarship from one of the most influential companies in your profession is a notable honor, but earning two top scholarships is an impressive feat.
Déjà Tyla Jackson, a computer science student in the College of Computing and Software Engineering, is one of only 20 female college students selected for this year’s Women Techmakers Scholars, a Google for Education program designed to create gender equality in the field of computer science, and encourage women in tech to become active role models and leaders in the field.
“To be recognized as a scholar by such a reputable company is amazing and it is a real honor to be granted this award,” said Jackson, who was acknowledged with the $10,000 scholarship for her academic record, exemplary leadership and demonstrated passion to increase the involvement of women in computer science.
“I tried for this scholarship because I wanted to push myself and not be scared of possible rejection,” she added.
Since arriving at Kennesaw State in 2015, Jackson has been involved in several undergraduate research opportunities, such as creating block programming language for students with disabilities and java applications for conference organizers to keep track of guests. Last summer, Jackson conducted research involving classified information for Georgia Tech’s Industrial Engineering department. This summer, she will work for the Department of Defense in Maryland as part of a 12-week internship.
“I am always impressed by Deja’s ability, work ethic and kind heart,” said Amber Wagner, a former Kennesaw State part-time assistant professor of computer science who oversaw Jackson’s research on block language with young children. “She works hard in her classes, but she pushes herself outside of the classroom as well. This is what really sets her apart from other students.”
Jackson also earned a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship, part of the National Defense Education Program and supported by the American Society for Engineering Education. The Department of Defense’s scholarship-for-service program selects students who have a demonstrated ability and special aptitude for excelling in STEM fields and want to continue research in civilian jobs in DoD laboratories and agencies after graduation.
The $25,000 SMART scholarship is awarded annually and is renewable for multiple years until degree completion. Upon graduation, scholarship recipients are required to conduct research at a DoD facility for the same number of years that they earned the scholarship.
“This money can help fund my education and grant me more time to focus on my education and success than constantly working,” she said. “I generally have at least two jobs at once.”
Jackson also has been active in several KSU student organizations, serving in leadership roles for three of the groups. Jackson is vice president of the Object-Oriented Owls, an organization that promotes interest and retention among women studying computer science.
“For me, the key to a great college experience is to get involved. It may be stressful for four years, but there is a huge benefit,” Jackson said, who is also a National Merit Scholar, sponsored by FedEx, and a Zell Miller Scholarship recipient. “I have been able to network and meet all kinds of people from a variety of majors and groups.”
A junior, Jackson serves as the college’s representative to the Student Government Association, in which she communicates the concerns of CCSE students to the SGA. She is a member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and Epsilon Pi Upsilon, an international honor society for computing and information disciplines, and serves on the business team for KSU’s Electric Vehicle Team.
In high school, Jackson took tech courses such as graphic design and math technology, and excelled in an AP Computer Science course. She enrolled at Gwinnett College for dual enrollment, while still in high school, earning 37 credit hours before coming to Kennesaw State.
“At the end of the day, I do everything I do because it feels great to make a difference and a real contribution to something,” she said. “As a college student, you are often handed amazing opportunities that you may feel you aren’t always qualified for, but you can learn anything you put your mind to with enough practice and dedication.”
The 19-year-old hopes to work in the area of cybersecurity.
“With the new wave of technological developments surfacing around the ‘Internet of Things,’ it is ever so necessary to secure these systems,” Jackson said. “So many companies are being hacked and aren’t able to find solutions to their problems. I would like to take a hand in helping prevent someone I know from being hacked, and educating people of the risks they take in protecting their own security.”
As part of the Women Techmakers scholarship, Google has invited Jackson to the Google Scholars’ Retreat in Mountain View, California, this summer for a four-day conference. Scholarship recipients will connect with fellow scholars, network with Googlers and participate in a number of development workshops.
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.