Let There Be Light
“Let There Be Light” shines off a UC Irvine paperweight sitting on my desk as a constant reminder to what Education and the University mean to myself and so many other fortunate people. The paperweight was a thoughtful gift from an adviser at UCI encouraging me to seize this opportunity and return to the University. A University that has already given me tremendous education and opportunity during my undergraduate degree program.
As the first member of my family to achieve a higher educational degree, I have a particular feeling about a slogan like this. I consider my four undergraduate years in this very same UC Irvine School of Computer Science to be the greatest four years of academic growth I will likely ever have. As a high school senior, I was extremely fortunate to have been found by the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) and offered a scholarship to help me attend the University as I otherwise would not have come here in favor of a cheaper school that I knew would be more affordable to me. This opportunity was what my life craved as a young seventeen year old full of potential, but I needed a proper place to grow. This University was the light by which I grew.
I adored my time here in Irvine guided by the CAMP program as it provided me with opportunities to do so much more than many students get to experience. I conducted two very interesting research projects in vastly different areas of computer science, presented my research in wondrous new cities across the country, and generally got to intimately know some of the most amazing faculty and advisors you could ever ask for. If that isn’t great enough, with small bits of unofficial and indirect help from the University, I started a business half way through my degree and still run it today. I literally grew up here at this very University within these very computer science buildings. Well, the original one at least.
So while those four undergraduate years shaped me as a person, my more recent years have had a different focus. I was given the great honor of being asked to serve on the CAMP Statewide Board to help expand their reach to students. I have had wonderful opportunities to meet and interview the most amazing kids for scholarship applications through the Hispanic Educational Endowment Fund (HEEF). I’ve gotten married. I’ve become a father.
My life has a larger and more defined purpose now. I have had a resurgence as a result of this and have been looking for what to do next from an academic perspective. I have recently completed two prestigious professional certifications, but I know I want more. So after fifteen some odd years of graduate programs passing me by without much interest, I received an email about this new Master in Human-Computer Interaction and Design from the University I love and it appealed to me as none others had before. I obviously like computers, but I like people even more and I suddenly knew this program is where I want to be.
Through and by the people around me, I am ready to grow again and I am coming back for more light! I want to be the best expert in HCI I can be. I want this for my family, my colleagues, and my community. Our community. I want to be part of the next generation of HCI professionals solving complex problems through technology while never losing focus of why we create technology in the first place – for people. Maybe we can help people work happier, maybe we help the environment we live in, maybe we help bridge the divides in our communities, maybe we help save the world. Maybe.
I do know this University and I go together and this program seems like the perfect fit for taking my next steps of growth towards an even more luminous new future with a few dozen other amazing people that I look forward to sharing the journey with. And I want to experience all the new buildings.
Aaron M. Soto