Why Professor Sanad Envisions a Long Career with the Masters of Software Development

Meet Professor Sanad Aburass, who received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Jordan and arrived at MIU in April 2022. He and his family love the MIU environment and plan to stay for a very long time. Professor Sanad recommends the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program to anyone who wants to become a proficient programmer within 12 to 18 months, and guarantees they can do it. Learn why Professor Sanad sees a long future for himself and his family here in Fairfield, Iowa, and why he believes this is the school for you.

“I would encourage anyone who wants to learn programming to come to MSD. I am sure that even with zero or minimal background you will become a good programmer who is ready to work for any company in the United States.

The programs we offer are taught by professionals who are proficient programmers with many years of experience. We know what we are teaching and give you all of our experience in a nutshell, in a span of three to four weeks in each subject.”  ~  Professor Sanad Aburass

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: It’s wonderful that you are so enthusiastic about teaching the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program.  What inspires you most about your MSD students?

Professor Sanad: I love them. The MSD students are unique because they come to us with no background in computer science or programming, and they become really good programmers in 12 to 18 months. They do it because they are dedicated and focused. They are organized and solve all their assignments. It takes many years for most people to become good programmers, and I’m amazed that they learn in such a short period of time. For students who didn’t know how to program from the beginning, that’s impressive.

CA: What courses do you teach and what do you love about teaching?

Professor Sanad: I teach Algorithms and Object-Oriented Programming.  I started out as a high school teacher and supported my family as a teacher while I studied for my Master’s degree and then my Ph.D. in Computer Science. I had seven years of active teaching while I was in graduate school. When I graduated, I had many job offers but I realized that what I love best is teaching.  I love explaining theory, computer science concepts, programming, and how to program. I love simplifying any complex concept.  And I like to engage the students. My class is always active. They are asking many questions, and I am picking their brains, asking why do you think this is important, why do we do that? Over the years I’ve found that it’s very important to keep the class lively.

CA: What do you like best about the MSD program? What makes it attractive to students?

Professor Sanad: I love the block system. It’s really amazing. I don’t know why other universities don’t use it because it makes it so much easier for the students to focus and learn. Having 4 or 5 subjects at one time is exhausting for students and teachers. With the block system, they get the time to go in-depth and concentrate on one subject at a time and not get distracted.

Also in MSD, the fact that we are able to teach students who have no programming background is really impressive.  We literally take them from zero to hero, from zero experience to gaining a great job.

We work hard to make the courses interesting and real-life oriented. The situations we teach are like programs they might be working on in real life. For example, at the end of each course, they do professional-style projects and that is impressive. They create a project as if it were for a company. Sometimes it’s in the last week, so basically, they have 2 or 3 days to complete the projects, and their work is amazing.

CA: Let’s circle back to the beginning of your journey here from Jordan. How did you hear about MIU and the MSD program?

Professor Sanad:  My friend, Professor Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh, is a faculty member at MIU and he recommended me to the Dean of Faculty and the Academic Administrator, Peter Vonderheide. I sent them my CV and they interviewed me and accepted me.

CA: What was your experience when you first landed on campus?

Sanad and FamilyProfessor Sanad:  I arrived with my wife, Maha, and our two children, Rafi and Naya, in April 2022. It was easy for us because the administration told us everything about Fairfield, such as what to do and what to bring. I didn’t have a car so my friend Muhyieddin drove us to get groceries. Having a friend was really important for us because we were new and in a foreign country.

We loved it here from the first day. We live on campus and it’s so safe and everyone is very friendly. It’s amazing when we go to lunch at the cafeteria in the Argiro building. Everyone knows our youngest child, Naya, who is 10 months old.  She’s the baby on campus and gets so much attention and loves it. We are all very happy here and plan to stay. I can really see myself teaching here for the next 20 to 30 years.

CA: What do you like best about teaching here at MIU?

Professor Sanad: The atmosphere here is so friendly and encouraging. As computer science faculty we have the freedom with our courses to get the job done, as long as we know what we are doing, and we are doing it correctly. That’s something we wouldn’t see in other universities. It’s totally different there, where the administrators tell the faculty what to do. Here at MIU, it’s like you don’t have a boss and no one will interfere with your job as long as you do your job correctly.

CA: Do you have any advice for students who are considering coming to MSD?

Professor Sanad: I would encourage anyone who wants to learn programming to come to MSD. I am sure that even with zero or minimal background you will become a good programmer who is ready to work for any company in the United States.

The programs we offer are taught by professionals who are proficient programmers with many years of experience. We know what we are teaching and give you all of our experience in a nutshell, in a span of three to four weeks in each subject.

CA: I understand that all the students and faculty learn the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program when they arrive here. Have you learned TM yet? Have you noticed any benefits?

Professor Sanad: I learned TM in Egypt. I’m from Jordan and we didn’t have any TM Centers so I had to fly to Egypt to learn TM. I enjoyed it because it felt like a spiritual journey.

I notice that I’m more relaxed and organized. In my personal life, I’m less stressed, more relaxed, and happier. I think I have a new perspective on life. And TM has also affected my professional life. After learning TM, I found I could read two or three computer science books in a month. This requires a lot of focus and was something I couldn’t do before TM.

CA: Do you think the students like their TM practice?

Professor Sanad:  We do 20 minutes in my class twice a day.  From what I can see, they take their TM seriously. I never had to deal with any student who doesn’t want to do TM with us. If someone had a problem they would probably be on their phones or would leave class when we start.

Although no one has told me personally about their TM, we do an evaluation of each course and there is a section about how TM affects their life. Most of them check off “agree” or “strongly agree.”

CA: Is there anything else you would like to say to prospective MSD students?

Professor Sanad: I would like to say to everyone who is considering joining our MSD program, don’t worry, we will take good care of you. I promise.

Professor Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh and His Interactive Approach to Teaching

MSD is a great program. We have students who come with zero background and I tell them it’s possible after completing this 12 to 18-month program to find a good job as a software developer.

When they arrive, many MSD students don’t know how computers work and they have no idea about writing code. It’s amazing that they have no knowledge of computers and we start teaching from scratch. I teach them the fundamentals at the beginning of the MSD program and when I meet with them after a year when they are 2/3 finished, they are completely different people. They are talking about coding, databases, and complex material.

~ Professor Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh 

Meet Professor Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh Ph.D., who received his doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Jordan. Professor Dean, as he likes to be called, came to MIU’s MS in Computer Science program because he loved the inclusion of meditation in the program. He was impressed by the benefits for both students and faculty, such as helping the mind settle down and increasing the ability to focus and learn. He has a very interactive approach to teaching because his goal is to make sure every student in his class feels comfortable asking questions, and engaging in discussions, so they fully understand the subject.

Interview by Christine Albers

CA: Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Professor Dean. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you learn about MIU?

Professor Dean: I was at the University of Jordan working on my Ph.D. Thesis and planning to go to Saudi Arabia, but my plans changed when I chatted with a friend who graduated from the MS in Computer Science program (ComPro).  He told me about MIU’s computer science programs and their serious approach to meditation, called Transcendental Meditation. I was always obsessed with the idea of meditation because I had problems focusing and a scattered mind, thinking too many things at one time,  and I thought meditation might help settle my mind.  When I heard about MIU it was like hitting two birds with one stone because I could get a job at MIU and learn TM. So, I came here and I loved it as soon as I arrived.

CA: Did you get the benefits you hoped for?

Professor Dean: I practice TM daily because I receive so many benefits, and I share my benefits with my students because they like actual outcomes. I tell them about my previous sleeping problems due to always thinking, thinking. Sleeping was a hard task because I couldn’t stop my mind. But since I learned TM, I started sleeping.

Meditation also helps me absorb information while reading. I tell my students to try reading after meditation. Sometimes you’re reading a piece of paper without focusing, and not putting it together. With TM you are reading and processing at the same time.

Recently I finished my Ph.D. Research where I had to read multiple papers to get the idea and put it into one or two paragraphs. It requires extreme focus. In the past, I had to read each page once or twice, but it’s like magic when I meditate, because  I can read and go through it in one shot and get the concept. I’m the same person. Nothing changed in me. The only change is that I started meditating.

CA: It’s wonderful that you received such benefits from TM. How do your students like their TM?

Professor Dean: Most of my students like TM, and many love it. But some students come up to me and say, “Professor I don’t feel those benefits. I don’t feel anything.” I ask them, “Are you practicing TM daily?  Are you giving it a shot? If you’re not serious about it, you won’t see the benefits.”

I tell them to go and practice it twice a day for one month. If they trust the process of meditating twice daily, they will see the outcome. Practice every day for a month and then we will have a talk.  After a month, the student comes back and says he notices the benefits and feels more of an urge to practice meditation.

I explain to my students that if they think of a computer, the memory is inside the computer, and when it is stored on the hard disk it can be scattered. So, we introduce a process of defragging the memory, where the computer starts organizing the memory parts and puts them next to each other, so when you search for data it’s not all over the place.

Meditation is like defragging the mind, settling down, letting all the colliding thoughts settle down, and allowing the mind to become more orderly. Stop, give your mind a break, and let it recognize itself. We need some time to stop adding thoughts. When we calm down, we let go of those thoughts that accumulate in the mind.

CA: What’s your experience of teaching MSD students?

Professor Dean: This is my 10th year of teaching and my third year of teaching at MIU. I originally came to MIU to teach in the ComPro Department. Teaching ComPro requires half the work of teaching MSD because ComPro students already know the basics and they can start at a higher level. The MSD students have no background and this is also a Master’s level, so we have to start from zero.

With MSD, I am teaching the Standard Track foundational courses, which is the part I love. They are learning how a computer works and how to communicate with it before we explain the main subject.  From my point of view, a lot of professors can succeed in teaching people who are already experienced, but you have to be a professional educator to teach people with no background – to teach the foundations of knowledge.

One of the courses that I love is called “Problem-solving,” where they are learning how to think like a developer. This course is the phase where they completely start thinking in a different way. They start breaking down real-life systems to understand the variables, functioning algorithms, and all other aspects to make it a fully functional program.

CA: What is your philosophy of teaching?

Professor Dean: My philosophy of teaching, in general, is that students feel more comfortable if they can interact with each other and with their professors. I encourage my students to ask questions so I can explain. My lectures are not a one-way delivery. Some people just stand at the front of the room and lecture until the end of the class. I tell my students to raise their hands and ask anything as long as it’s relative. They shouldn’t be shy to ask simple questions and can ask anything about computers, such as network, security, operating systems, and coding. As a result, in my class, you will see every student raise their hand.

CA: What inspired you to teach in this interactive way?

Professor Dean: When I was a student, I was curious, and had many questions. Most of my questions were simple. I would ask my professor, why am I taking this course? Then I realized that most professors were offended because they thought I was questioning the course, but I just wanted to learn more.  Some students reach a level of understanding that indicates there is a gap in their knowledge, and if the professor doesn’t help him fill the gap, the students won’t continue learning at all.

I make it a point to answer all their questions and make sure that every student understands. I tell them I’m pretty competent, and I should be able to answer your questions, but if I don’t know the answer, I will simply look it up. When we get to a level where students are discussing and asking questions, that is when I feel I have reached the goal of education, the process of imparting knowledge to a group of individuals.

CA: What do you find is the most surprising aspect of software development for new students?  

Professor Dean: Writing code is much more involved than just following a few steps, it requires a lot of critical and logical thinking. Many students are shocked when they realize the deep level of engineering required for software development.  It’s not just writing instructions. The world nowadays has proven that this is one of the highest levels of engineering. Simple codes make decisions on resources that cost billions, and if a software developer writes something that works but is an inefficient code, it can cost a company millions of dollars.

CA: What advice do you have for students who want to take this program and become successful software developers?

Professor Dean: I would tell them that the IT field is challenging because our domain keeps evolving. My father is a professor in Accounting, but Accounting doesn’t evolve very frequently as a domain. Our domain keeps evolving and you have to be prepared for non-stop learning. This is not a program where you graduate and get a job and you’re done.  You have to keep on learning and get used to reading about the latest applications and developments.

Our Dean, Dr. Keith Levi, is still teaching coding. He is continuously learning because he likes what he’s doing. He’s interested and he wants to learn, regardless of age. You have to like problem-solving because with coding you are continuously breaking down problems and solving them. Some people don’t like solving problems. If you don’t embrace problem-solving and continuous learning, you may have difficulty with coding. You have to love coding, see the beauty in it, and you will succeed.

CA: Do you feel that the MSD program is preparing students to become competent software developers?

Professor Dean: MSD is a great program. We have students who come with zero background and I tell them it’s possible after completing this 12 to 18-month program to find a good job as a software developer.

When they arrive, many MSD students don’t know how computers work and they have no idea about writing code. It’s amazing that they have no knowledge of computers and we start teaching from scratch. I teach them the fundamentals at the beginning of the MSD program and when I meet with them after a year when they are 2/3 finished, they are completely different people. They are talking about coding, databases, and complex material.”

Cathy Gorini – A Mathematics Professor Who Teaches from Her Heart

Cathy Gorini – A Mathematics Professor Who Teaches from Her Heart

It’s a great pleasure to introduce Professor Cathy Gorini, who has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia. Her Masters of Software Development (MSD) students say she deserves an award for being such an amazing professor who teaches from her heart and makes sure every student understands each lesson. Learn more about the role of mathematics in becoming an accomplished software developer, the consciousness-based approach to mathematics that Professor Cathy employs in her classes, and why she is such a wonderful teacher.

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: What brought you to MIU, Cathy?

Cathy: I love talking about Mathematics, and sharing anything to do with Mathematics. After I learned TM, I noticed I was much better at Mathematics because I could think more clearly and deeply and focus better. When I heard about the university I thought, okay that’s it, that’s where I want to teach. It was instant. I knew this would be the best place for me. I wrote to Dr. Michael Weinless, who was Mathematics chair then, and told him I wanted to teach at MIU. I arrived here in 1978.

CA: Did you teach Math at other universities before coming to MIU?

Cathy:  I taught at the University of Virginia as a teaching assistant, and then at Pembroke State University in North Carolina, and Rhode Island College but I was struggling to connect with my students and help them understand Mathematics. After becoming a TM teacher in 1975, I realized I could explain mathematical concepts much more easily by including concepts from Consciousness-based education (CBE), but I couldn’t use CBE concepts there. I wanted to come to MIU where I could use CBE concepts and be a more effective teacher.

CA: Can you talk about Consciousness-based Education and Mathematics?

Cathy: Mathematics is abstract, so students have to be able to think at an abstract level. When they practice TM, their minds become familiar with deeper levels of thinking, and understanding Mathematics is easier. It has to do with the nature of Mathematics, which is abstract, so having direct access to those abstract levels makes all the difference.

CA: Do you notice a difference between MIU students versus students at other universities where you taught?

Cathy: The main difference is in terms of the depth of the student’s thinking. MIU students can understand abstract concepts more deeply and that is fulfilling for me as a teacher.

CA: What subjects do you teach?

Cathy: This year I taught two Discrete Mathematics classes for MSD students, one in December and one in June. I also teach Calculus to undergrads in mathematics, physics, and computer science, and also a course called Geometry for the Artist for art students.

CA: Why are MSD students learning Mathematics and how does it apply to becoming a Software Developer?

Cathy: It applies because the topics we cover are graph theory, set theory, logic, and Boolean algebra, and they are all used in computer science.

CA: Are they picking up these concepts easily?

Cathy: They pick the new concepts up easily because they all have very good educational backgrounds, with a lot of mathematics from their prior education.

CA: What inspires you about teaching MSD students?

Cathy: I’m impressed by my MSD students’ commitment to their studies and quality of life.  They work hard, have a great sense of community, and work well with each other.  They are dedicated and responsible students who ask relevant and probing questions in class. They are polite and kind to one another and they really want to develop their knowledge.

CA: Have you noticed that the practice of Transcendental Meditation is helping the students?

Cathy: We do a survey at the end of each class, and one question is about their TM practice. Almost all the students say that TM helps them in their studies and that understanding the connection between consciousness and mathematics gives them a deeper appreciation of the knowledge. I meditate with them in class during the whole course, so they get some solid experience of what it’s like to meditate regularly.

In the survey, we  also ask “What was your most significant experience during this course?” The majority of the students say that meditating in the group twice a day made a huge difference. One student said that daily meditation helped him acquire the knowledge to find all possibilities so that any problem can be solved.

In answering another survey question, “What aspect of the course would you keep?” most say they would keep the TM part because they’ve seen so much progress in themselves. That’s pretty good!

CA: Any advice for new MSD students?

Cathy: I would tell them that anyone who comes to this program will enjoy it and gain many benefits. However, it’s a big commitment because the MSD program is very demanding. My advice is, once you are here, take advantage of the consciousness program because it will absolutely help you in your studies.

CA: Any last comments?

Cathy: I know that many of our international students have been through a lot in their home countries but somehow, they were able to get here, and they have a wonderful opportunity to create a better life. It makes me so happy to know they will get great jobs, contribute to society and take good care of their families. It’s a pleasure to teach them.

Gemechu Tiko’s Invitation to Join the MSD Program

“For anyone who wants to join MSD, I would say please, please, please join us!  Don’t worry about having a computer science background because they will teach you all the foundational knowledge you need. Just follow your passion to be a computer programmer. The whole education is set up to help you learn, and the block system is great because you take one course at a time, which helps you focus and gain deeper knowledge than with the traditional system. Here at MIU, everything is so nice and peaceful.” ~ Gemechu Tiko

Learn more about Gemechu and his journey from Ethiopia to MIU’s Masters in Software Development program.

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: How did you learn about MSD?

Gemechu: I have a close family member who graduated from ComPro (MIU’s MS in Computer Science program) in 2020. When I told her I wanted to learn computer science and pursue my dream to become a programmer, she recommended MSD, which is similar to ComPro but doesn’t require a computer science background. So that’s how I heard about MIU.

CA: What was it like when you first arrived on campus?

Gemechu: I loved it here right away. Everyone was so friendly and helpful with finding my dorm and my room. On my first day, I met 5 students and within 5 or 10 minutes we became friends and have remained best friends to this day. I also love the healthy food and peaceful environment.

CA: What was your educational background?

Gemechu: My least favorite subject in high school was math. How you get your education changes the way you understand things, and my secondary school math teacher, Mr. Sentayehu, was the motivation for my new journey in mathematics. Since studying with him, math has become my favorite subject. My love of solving math and physics problems helped me graduate with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Mekelle University.

CA: Did you work as a mechanical engineer after college?

Gemechu: I was working, but not in my field of mechanical engineering.  There are very few jobs back home, so I came to the USA to spend time with my father and look for better job opportunities.  I took a computer science course in C++ on my own and really liked coding, so when I learned about MSD at MIU, I quickly applied to become a student.

CA: How are your professors?

Gemechu: Oh, they are so nice. One of them was you. We asked you so many questions and you answered without any hesitation.

Every instructor answers every question, even if we ask beyond the course, and even at night time if we try to communicate, they will answer our questions.  They are so helpful.

So far, we had Professor Muhyieddin, Professor Renuka, Professor Sanad, and Professor Cathy Gorini and I liked all of them.  Every instructor is great. Each has their own way of teaching a good lesson to us and they encourage us to ask questions. They never get tired of us asking the same question again and again and we ask a lot of questions.

CA: What are your plans when you graduate?

Gemechu: I have a wish to be a computer science expert so I will pursue my dream of being a software developer. My two brothers and one of my sisters moved to Minnesota and live with my father, so if it’s possible, I’d like to live near my family, but I’m willing to go anywhere in the U.S.

CA: What would you say to a student who is applying for MSD?

Gemechu: I would say please, please, please join the MSD program. Don’t worry about having a computer science background because they will teach you all the foundational knowledge you need. Just follow your passion to be a computer programmer. The whole education is set up to help you learn and the block system is great because you take one course at a time, which helps you focus and gain deeper knowledge than with the traditional system.

CA: Do you have any advice that will help students succeed in the MSD program?

Gemechu: It’s easy to make friends here because everyone is so friendly and having friends helps a lot, so don’t be a loner.  We share knowledge and information, work in teams and study groups, and work together on our assignments, so we really help each other. Even when you graduate and live outside of this environment and work as a software developer, you will always need to have good friends and family.

Here at MIU, everything is so nice and peaceful. Please come and join us.

CA: Tell us what it was like when you were growing up in Ethiopia.

Gemechu: My mother named me “Gemechu,” which means “happy.” Thanks to my name I always feel happy. Even in rough times, I keep a smile on my face and that smile and happiness keep me moving forward. I grew up in Addis Ababa with my mother, two brothers, and 3 sisters. When I was young my father moved to Minnesota where he worked in the Aerospace industry. We talked on the phone but we didn’t see each other for 20 years. I graduated from Mekelle University in 2019, and we reunited when he invited me to Minnesota.

CA: What was your experience when you came to the United States? 

Gemechu: When I saw snow for the first time, I was amazed. In Africa we never saw snow, so the cold weather was a shock at first. I arrived in February, and it was a new country, a new continent, and so cold, but my father helped me get through it. I adapted and now I actually enjoy the cold weather and snow as much as the sunny warm days.

I lived with my father and stepmother in Minnesota for two and half years while working for Amazon as a package delivery driver, but it wasn’t my life goal. I worked hard and adjusted to life in the USA. Then I joined the Master’s in Software Development program (MSD) in February 2022 with the goal of becoming the best possible software developer.

Gemechu and MSD classmates

CA: How’s your Transcendental Meditation practice? Are you feeling any benefits?

Gemechu: Transcendental Meditation was a new thing for me. I tried to meditate but at first, I felt distracted. Sometimes I fell asleep but my teacher explained that it’s okay to fall asleep.

After meditating, I feel more balanced and so peaceful. It helps me calm down and it’s not as difficult to study after practicing TM. I can absorb the knowledge and concentrate on the lectures in class and homework at night.

CA: I notice that some students are concerned that meditation might be a conflict with their religion. How do you feel about that?

Gemechu:  At first, I worried that it might be a conflict, but now I don’t worry at all. My professors answered my questions and explained that it’s not about religion, it’s about being in a deeper state of mind. They convinced me that TM does not have a relationship with any religion, so now I meditate twice a day without any worries.

Congratulations to our 2022 Graduates!

Congratulations to our 2022 graduates!
Pictured are our MSD and Computer Science graduates who were able to attend the in-person ceremonies and celebration!
Best of luck to ALL of our wonderful graduates in their future endeavors!!
This could be you! Apply for our next entry now at msd.miu.edu/apply.

Michael Abayneh: Why a Devoted Family Man and Educated Professional Joined MSD

Meet Michael Girma Abayneh from Ethiopia. Michael has 3 higher degrees and comes to MSD with a great deal of professional experience,  in both Chemistry, and Accounting and Finance.  Michael took this courageous step to come to the USA and leave behind his beautiful wife and 5 children in order to advance his career and create a better life for his family. Learn about his first impressions of MIU, how he believes he can practice TM and still be a strong member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and how he hopes to create more efficiency in diversified companies through implementing software applications.

 Interview by Christine Albers

 Christine (CA): It’s great to have this opportunity to sit with you and learn how you are doing as a new student in the Masters of Software Development program (MSD), Michael. Let’s start with your first impression of MIU. What was that like for you?

Michael: The day I arrived at MIU I made three friends as soon as I got to my dorm room. They were my neighbors and the good thing is that we are still friends. Everyone, from the program coordinators to the senior students welcomed us and gave us all the information we needed, and it really helped us feel at home. I missed Ethiopia and my family but the environment was so welcoming that it helped me get over being homesick.

CA: How are your courses so far?

Michael: From my side, the courses are exactly what I was expecting on the Standard Track. With the block system, we focus on one specific course in detail and each course prepares us for the next one. So far, we had Introduction to Java, Procedural Programming, and Object-oriented Programming (OOP). These are foundational courses for MSD because we don’t have a background in computer science. If I was taking the Accelerated  Track, it wouldn’t be the same amount of detail; it would be in the form of a summary. The foundational courses are preparing us to join the fast track in August.

 CA: How do you like your professors?

Michael: Our current teacher is Dr. Renuka Mohanraj and before her was Dr. Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh, who played a big role in preparing us for Dr. Renuka’s course. I really like them both. I have a background as a teacher and lecturer back home so I can figure out the requirements for the course. I give equal appreciation to both professors because they provide more than enough knowledge of their subjects.

CA: How did you hear about MIU and the MSD program and what inspired you to join MSD?

Michael: I heard about MSD from a friend of my brother-in-law in St. Paul. He said I should do it, even though I already went to three universities and have three degrees.  He said I need to go back to school in order to gain a good job in the USA. I have basic computer application skills and I’m eager to learn more about software applications.

Computer science makes all my previous education and knowledge meaningful because I can practice accounting more effectively. In the past, I worked for diversified companies and I believe that implementing new programming concepts will make that work more efficient.

With MSD, I’m finally putting myself on the right track, which will help me achieve my dream to become a competent, intelligent, and energetic software developer.

CA: What would you say to someone who wants to enroll in the MSD program?

Michael: MSD is greater than my expectation. I really appreciate the way our professors treat us and how MSD graduates are getting jobs.

I like how the dorm proctors manage the dormitories. If they see something wrong in the kitchen or the bathroom, they post it on the group account so all of the students are informed and take care of it right away.

Everyone respects quiet hours in the dorms so we get enough sleep.

I also like the healthy vegetarian food in the cafeteria. My cholesterol was high before I came here and now it is normal, which is due to the healthy food. At this university, we learned that taking care of our health by getting proper rest and exercise actually helps us in our studies and future career.  There is a gym in our building and I manage to get in some exercise twice a week for 40 to 60 minutes. We also walk a lot during the day.

 CA: What are your plans when you graduate?

 Michael: I will graduate in August 2023 and plan to find a good software development position, and create a better life for myself and my family in America.

I am confident that Maharishi International University will add significant value to my life along with making me a competent, intelligent, energetic, and creative software developer who can serve the community.

CA: Michael, All of us at MIU wish you great success in finding a wonderful job and bringing your family to the USA. With your strong moral values and work ethic, you would be a great addition to any company. When did you arrive in the US? And what were you doing prior to coming to MIU?

Michael: I arrived in the United States in July 2019 and lived with one of my sisters in St. Paul, Minnesota. I joined Wells Fargo Bank and worked as an operations clerk for about two years. Right before coming to MIU, I went back to Ethiopia to see my family and stayed for 2 months because I knew I wouldn’t be able to visit again for 12 months.

CA: What was your educational background and career in Ethiopia?

Michael: I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s of Science degree in Accounting and Finance.  I also have a diploma in Chemistry from college. I started my career as a teacher and became a unit leader and Vice Academic Director for a secondary school. After that, I joined Midroc Technology Group. Midroc has 20 sister companies, and I worked for 3 of them, Midroc Gold Mines,  PLC, and Elfora Agro-Industry as an accountant and senior accountant. My most recent position was at Unity University where I was a Lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance.

CA: You had very professional positions and a good career in Ethiopia. What inspired you to move to the US?

Michael: From childhood, I believed if someone goes to school, the knowledge should be used to solve problems, and it was my dream to find solutions for any problem that can be solved with diversified knowledge.  Here in the USA, there is great potential for technology-supported knowledge, and there are many good job opportunities.

CA: You must really miss your family. Can you tell us more about them?

Michael: My wife is Lidia Yohannes and we were blessed with two sets of twins and a boy, five kids altogether. Life in Ethiopia is challenging because the economic instability is tough, but my wife is really strong and caring. She is taking care of herself and our kids, as well as my parents, who are her neighbors, and all this while she works as a customer service manager in a private commercial bank. It’s not easy for her to care for everyone, but she has help from a babysitter and a housekeeper. It was tough to leave my family, but I am always calling home and asking about their safety.

CA: Tell us about your childhood in Ethiopia.

Michael: I was born in the town of Debre Zeyit, which is now named Bishoftu. Like any native of a small town, I grew up playing happily with the neighborhood kids. I have six sisters but I am the only boy in the family. Since I don’t have any brothers, my father has always been my brother and my best friend. He worked as a master technician in Ethiopia and he was a former Ethiopian Air Force ground school instructor. My mom was an elementary school teacher. Both my parents are retired, and my father has more time to serve as a priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

CA:  Your relationship with your father sounds very special.

Michael: My father has been a great influence in my life. He served in the Ethiopian Church since he was a child and he taught me from childhood to serve the church in my spare time. From him, I inherited the habit of reading religious books, listening to spiritual songs, participating in holy mass, and volunteering at the church. For my father and me, the most important things in life are family and moral values.

CA: What are your sisters doing now?

Michael: Five of my sisters live in St. Paul and are all married, with kids, and working as nurses. One of my sisters still lives in Addis Ababa, working as a Customer Service Manager at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. She is also married and has 4 kids.

CA: Are you enjoying your Transcendental Meditation practice?

 Michael: I grew up in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, so I’m serving the church in the same way as my father. On the surface, it may seem that there are contradictions with my religion, but beyond that, there are also a lot of similarities. I utilize TM because I’ve found it is not related to religion.  It’s a technique that helps me settle and focus in the classroom.

 CA: Do you ever feel that TM enhances your religion?

Michael: One should understand the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The doctrine is a bit rigid, and there is nothing easy or flexible in our religion, so it would be harder for followers of this religion to accept TM. That is the toughest part. I try to match the positive features of TM with my religion and my daily activity and that makes me able to do TM and feel good about it.

 CA: Do you notice any specific benefits from your TM practice?

Michael: Yes, TM has a lot of positive impact on my life. My mind is tired after classes and TM gives me some rest, which helps me gain more energy to study and focus on my homework in the evening.

CA: How did you enjoy the first introductory course, Science and Technology of Consciousness (STC)?

Michael: In our Science and Technology of Consciousness class we learned a lot of things to help us be healthy, such as having a good daily schedule and the value of getting enough sleep, getting exercise, and practicing TM.

We also learned about some basic universal principles, and when I think of them, I have a lot of positive thoughts. Some of the principles are “Harmony exists in diversity,” and “Do less and accomplish more.” These basic principles can be implemented in our life without contradicting our religion.

“Harmony exists in Diversity” holds my attention because of the current instability in my country which may be due to a lack of consciousness about what we are thinking and doing regarding diversification. Diversity could be a beautiful thing if accepted with full awareness.

Tsigab Berhe’s Path to Success

Tsigab BerheIt was such a pleasure to interview MSD student Tsigab Solomon Berhe from Eritrea, whose enthusiasm for life, learning, and education is contagious. This happy guy is always the first to raise his hand in class to discuss or answer questions. And he’s a poet as well! Learn more about Tsigab’s positive approach to life and his dedication to gaining knowledge, which will surely pave his path to success. (And be sure to read his poem at the end of the article).

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: Tell us about your childhood in Eritrea.

Tsigab: I had a lovely childhood in Eritrea, a beautiful country located in the horn of Africa. I was the first child, with five younger siblings, and we have a fantastic love between us in our family. That love is almost supernatural, second to none.

CA: How did your parents make a living?

Tsigab: My father was a soldier and my mother was a housewife. At some point life became difficult and they had financial and economic problems so my father left the country and found work in Israel. He has worked there for over 10 years so he can send money to the family. One sibling is working in Switzerland, and I am in the U.S., so now we are scattered like seeds all over the world, but we all connect frequently by phone.

CA: What kind of education did you receive in Eritrea?

Tsigab: I was born in a small town where the schooling was not very good and when I was in 8th grade, we moved to Adi-Keih, where I was able to attend a better school. After a while, my parents moved to a different city, and I lived by myself in a town called Senafe to complete Grade 9. There were a lot of highly intelligent students there and I knew I had to study hard to catch up and compete with them. All I needed to do was study.

CA: You were so young. How did you take care of yourself?

Tsigab: My parents sent me boxes of food and recipes on the bus so I could learn to cook for myself.

CA: How long did you live in Adi-Keih and what came next?

Tsigab: I finished grades 10 through 11 in Adi-Keih, and then, according to Eritrean law, I joined a military camp called SAWA where I completed one year of military training which included grade 12. It was my duty, even though life was difficult there because the weather was terrible and we were separated from our families and loved ones. However, the good thing is that it was a youth camp where students came from every corner of the country. We shared many things, such as cultural and traditional perspectives, and that made life a piece of cake.

CA: What did you do after military camp?

Tsigab:  After completing the military camp, I took the matriculation exam. It is tough because it determines what your future will be. Just to make a story short, I got the highest distinction mark of a 4.0 GPA.

I was assigned to Mai-Nefhi college in Asmara, the capital of the country, where I pursued my dream of studying computer science. I hoped to find a job after graduation, but it never happened.

CA: Congratulations on your score! Why was it difficult to find a job in Eritrea?

Tsigab: We cannot study what we want, and cannot find enough computers or internet access, and we cannot find employment after graduating from college. You can’t find a job because there are no channels to continue in your field. These things make life complicated, so a lot of people, including me, leave the country.  I knew that I wouldn’t find work and I wanted to enhance myself and get higher education.

CA: I understand that it is illegal to leave Eritrea. Is that true?

Tsigab: Yes, it is true that we are not allowed to leave the country, so I fled illegally and crossed into Egypt.

CA: Your family must miss you.

Tsigab: My parents miss me and I miss them, but because they are illiterate and uneducated, they want us to understand how lack of education makes life harder. They are too old to think of going back to school now, but they encourage us to keep on studying and achieve a better life, so they are proud that I am pursuing higher education. My parents are legally allowed to travel to Ethiopia or Sudan because they are older, and we hope to meet in the future after I finish my course.

CA: You mentioned that you lived in Egypt after graduating from college.  What were you doing there?

Tsigab: When I arrived in Egypt, I found about 15,000 Eritreans living there.  They left Eritrea while they were in junior high or high school, or were involved in other activities. As a consequence, they had very little education and wanted to study and learn as much as possible. I wanted to help them so I started my own private school and taught computer science and English. Eventually, I chose to come to the United States because I knew it was a land with many opportunities. It seemed like a promised land.

CA: Was it hard to leave your school?

Tsigab: Yes, it was very hard. I wished I could stay and help them but I knew I had to get a higher education level. I agree with Nelson Mandela who said that “education is the only weapon that can change the world.”

CA: Where did you land in the USA?

Tsigab: My point of entry was New York City and I went to Arizona where I have relatives. Then I took a job in California, where I was a dispatcher for a pilot freight company. I took calls from customers and answered emails from different branches throughout the U.S.

CA: How did you hear about the MSD program?

Tsigab: When I came to this country, I wanted higher education, but I had never heard of MIU.  My two relatives in Arizona told me they had graduated from MIU. One of them graduated from ComPro (M.S. in Computer Science) and the other from MSD. They told me that MIU is a nice place and I should go there. I looked at the MSD website and decided it would be a good place for me. My relatives also told me that I would learn Transcendental Meditation at MIU.

CA: What did your relatives say about the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM)?

Tsigab: They said it helped them in school. But meditation is a bit contradictory for us, as we are from the land of religion. We respect our religion, so when we are told to try something else that seems spiritual, we might not accept it until we feel it is okay. When my relatives told me about something called TM, I thought, what is this? I googled it and learned it is not a religion. It is something else. It’s a technique that anyone from any religion can practice and when I came here, I found it was fantastic.

CA: That’s great that you are finding that TM is fantastic. Can you tell how it has benefited you?

Tsigab: TM improves intelligence, creativity, and clear thinking. It’s helping me in school because I’m more energetic, motivated, and encouraged to study. I feel happy and relaxed, and I notice that good things come with that, including better relationships. I was very uptight before I learned TM, but now I’m always happy, and this helps me foster and maintain good relationships and do well in school.

CA: What would you say to prospective MSD students?

Tsigab: I would tell them this is a fantastic university and I have been enjoying everything here. I like the way MIU is designed to help you succeed. The campus is in a rural area, which is a great environment to gain higher education and be productive in your studies. If it was in a big city, it could be a problem with so many distractions.

The meditation helps with your studies and the food is vegetarian, organic, and healthy. Our dorms have exercise equipment,  and there’s a large gym for all the students so we can be physically fit.  We are encouraged to get plenty of rest so we are alert in class. Overall, it’s a healthy environment that helps you learn.

CA: What advice would you give to new students?

Tsigab: I was a good student all my life because I studied extremely hard. So, I would say, when you come to MIU, be prepared to focus and concentrate on your studies. If you are persistent, you can do well. Working hard and staying dedicated is the key. And be open to the university’s approach to education, which is all about helping you achieve success.


by Tsigab Berhe

It was above my expectation

A lovely place of attraction

With great teachers and professors

And the scent of knowledge


It is quite quiet

During the day and night

An amazing environment

And unbelievable place of enhancement


A well-designed system of education

With meditation that keeps your direction

A source of happiness and stillness

That leads to cosmic consciousness


It improves clarity

Increases productivity

For all students of this university

a university with great faculty


Yum, healthy and organic foods

All kinds of vegetables and fruits

Is what this university feeds

With all other healthy amenities


Here in Fairfield

In Iowa, a beautiful land

Where this university is located

Where knowledge is gained.

Samuel Tumdedo: A Humanitarian’s Journey to the Masters in Software Development

It was an inspiring experience to interview Samuel Tumdedo, who came to the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program with an impressive background working for humanitarian organizations such as World Vision International, Samaritan’s Purse International, and Action Contre La Faim (ACF), where he managed water supply projects in refugee camps, and often in war zones. Samuel dedicated many years of his life to helping school children and refugee communities and has recently joined MSD to become a software developer. He plans to use his new skills to continue his work with humanitarian organizations. Learn more about this man and be prepared to be inspired!

Interview by Christine Albers

CA: Can you tell us a bit about your family and where you grew up?

Samuel: I was born and raised in the Hadiya zone of Ethiopia which is 235km from Addis Ababa, the capital to the south. I am the second of six siblings. My father and mother and four of my siblings are in Ethiopia. My other brother and sister are in Johannesburg, South Africa. My parents are farmers and commerce merchants, selling farm products. They always ask me to come back. And I do miss them and Ethiopia. The weather there is a kind of utopia. The temperature is always 60 to 70 degrees.

CA: What is your educational and career background?

Samuel: I attended the Arba Minch University in Ethiopia, where I studied hydraulic engineering for five years. After graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Engineering, I worked for about one and a half years in water supply and housing projects in the Hadiya zone of Ethiopia as a hydraulic engineer. After that, I joined World Vision International to work as an Infrastructure Engineer. I was promoted to Water Supply Design Engineer Officer and stayed with World Vision for almost six years. During that time, I was based in different parts of Ethiopia working in area development programs and also three and half years in Addis Ababa. I then took a managerial position with Action Contre La Faim (ACF) where I stayed for a year.

After my year at ACF, I had the opportunity to join Samaritan’s Purse International in South Sudan where I worked with Nubian refugees and South Sudanese host communities in Unity State. My South Sudanese experience was special in many ways; it was a war zone with extremely difficult weather conditions. There was no communication and we could only make a call if there was an emergency. There was so much stress and pressure as we were serving very large populations. One camp had 70,000 refugees, another had 40,000, and another housed 300,000. I was managing different projects for Samaritan’s Purse along with other humanitarian organizations in the cluster.




CA: You also worked in Cambodia. What took you there?

Samuel: I had the privilege of working in Cambodia which lost more than 3 million people during the Khmer Rouge genocide. I was a water supply, sanitation, and hygiene program manager for almost three years in Cambodia, while still working for Samaritan’s Purse International. When I think of Cambodia, I always think about how much war can damage a country’s economy, education, livelihoods and so much more. When I saw Cambodia, it was so sad. The population was not well educated. These people left their country and were refugees who came back, and then they were assigned to another place. They lived in fear. It was really depressing to see how they were tortured. My job was working for them on water supply, water quality tests, building reservoirs and water tanks, hygiene promotions, and education.

CA: You are such a compassionate and good-hearted person, Samuel. What inspired you to work for these humanitarian organizations?

Samuel: After graduating from college, I really wanted to help the world with my profession, which at that time was engineering.  I am a Christian, so I feel there is great value in helping people and communities in need. I thought, what is my true profession? And the answer that came to me was to advance the kingdom of God.

CA: You certainly did wonderful work during those years in Sudan and Cambodia. What inspired you to move to the United States?

Samuel: I’m really proud I worked there and had that experience. I had the privilege to learn about other global communities, cultures, religions, and specifically the South Sudanese community who are still suffering from unreached needs. There are so many untold stories about that young nation. I hope there might come a day when South Sudan can use its resources and rise as a nation.

However, the pressure of bringing facilities to needy people, who were coming from the war zone was extremely stressful and it wasn’t very safe to live there, so at some point, I was ready for a change. For so many years I was really stressed and I needed to stay in one place.

So, after working many years in humanitarian organizations I moved to the U.S. because I wanted to be more settled in one country.

CA: What was your experience when you arrived in the United States?  

Samuel: I started coming to the US in 2015 and working on IT projects with friends while continuing with humanitarian projects. When I first arrived, I had to adapt and learn everything new. I had to work to get to know people and gain entry into other communities. The newness of everything was a culture shock. Over time, I became more acclimated to life in the US and in 2019 I moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, with a plan to stay permanently.

CA: Were you able to find work in the US?

Samuel: When I came to the US, I needed to change my engineering career to Information Technology (IT). I had some inclination to technology and I love learning new programming languages. I had some knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL) so that was the first job I got in the USA. I explored more on the IT side and I learned a bit of Python programming language. I also had the opportunity to learn Cloud Computing.

I am now certified with four Amazon Web Services. Last year (2021), I became an AWS certified cloud practitioner, AWS certified solutions architect associate, AWS certified developer associate, and AWS certified Data Analytics Specialist.  But I still wanted to get out of the norm where I used to be. That is why I decided to stop, change my job, and get more education.  I felt that I could do better with software development and I decided to join Maharishi International University, and here I am in Iowa.

CA: What was your experience when you arrived at MIU?

Samuel: I really like MIU. It was totally new to me, but now it feels like something good.  For example, the food is different. I was a meat-eater but now I am eating vegetarian, and I like that it is healthy. Another thing is the TM technique. I’m not accumulating stress anymore because I have a way to release it. I feel more self-aware. I know what I’m doing and I can remember things better. I’m realizing those benefits now. The education system coupled with TM at the beginning and end of the day makes me feel like I am understanding something deeper, like I am more connected to God, and have a deeper appreciation of my own religion.

CA: What are your plans for the future?

Samuel: I will see what happens but I hope to be a strong software developer and work with humanitarian organizations where I can contribute to educational systems in underdeveloped countries.

CA: Thank you, Samuel. Getting to know you through this interview, I can see you are a beautiful person, and all of us at MIU wish you the very best success in your career and happiness in life.




The Joy of Teaching at MIU – interview with MSD Professor Unubold Tumenbayar

Professor Unubold Tumenbayar graduated from MIU’s Master’s in Computer Science Professionals program (ComPro) in 2019 and landed a great job as a Java developer where he advanced his skills by working on multi-regional global applications in the Cloud. He returned to MIU in 2021 to teach students attending the MSD (Masters in Software development) program and ComPro. “The main thing I brought to MSD and Compro was Cloud-computing, and I also teach React and Database,” he says. But it’s the joy of living and teaching at MIU that inspired Unubold to return. Let’s learn more about Unubold and why he loves teaching aspiring computer professionals.

Interview by Christine Albers

CA: Can you tell us about your academic and computer science background?

Professor Unubold: I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2017 from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. It’s the biggest university in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital city.

In Mongolia,  university students can choose their subjects so I took most of my classes in the first three years.  In my senior year, I had lots of free time so I worked at Axis-Systems as a Java Developer, so I was already working with Java while I was at the university in Mongolia.

CA: What inspired you to become a student at MIU?

Professor Unubold: In my last year at the university, in 2017, since I already had experience in Java, I thought, what’s next? Then in June, Professor Greg Guthrie came to the university and spoke to the students. He was the reason I came to MIU’s Computer Science program. I had applied to other universities, but after meeting Professor Guthrie and his wife in Mongolia, I was ready to go to MIU and I submitted my application immediately.

I joined Compro in October 2017 and everything started from there. I had lots of experience in software development, but this was different. I took MIU’s first Data Science Track because I wanted to learn something new.

CA: Did you find a good job when you finished ComPro?

Professor Unubold: I finished ComPro in 2019 and worked as a Java Developer at Sterling, which is headquartered in NY, but I worked in the Seattle branch.  During the interview for that job, I told them about MIU and the Big Data I learned here and that made them want to hire me because that technology was new. It was a great company to work in. They have an architecture team that does research and initiates technology improvement because new technologies give them an advantage.

I was at Sterling for 2 ½ years and it was there that I learned Cloud technologies, which provides a lot of opportunities for businesses and can make a big difference in our industry. If we look at job descriptions in the US, most of them will say it’s nice to have cloud experience. I knew this, but many developers didn’t know how cloud technologies make their jobs easier, so my goal was to help them learn these high-demand skills.  At first, I was only helping Mongolian developers, but then I realized that the MIU computer science students need to learn Cloud computing as well and I wanted to help them.

CA: How did you get the opportunity to join MIU Faculty?

Professor Unubold: Last April 2021, Professor Peter Vonderheide sent all the ComPro graduates an email announcing positions for professors for MSD (MIU’s Masters in Software Development program) and ComPro, and by May I was working here. One of the main reasons I joined MIU faculty is because I looked at the curriculum and the subjects that are taught, and I saw that they are practical. They are the kind of subjects anyone would want to learn in order to be a proficient software developer. And the environment at MIU is so peaceful and friendly.

CA: Transitioning from working a full-time job in Seattle to teaching computer science at MIU is a big change. How are you enjoying your teaching career?

Professor Unubold: Teaching is completely different from working in the field. I’ve been teaching for 6 or 7 months now, but when I think about the way I was teaching in the beginning, I realize how naïve I was. We taught Cloud computing for the first time, and everything was brand new technologies, so the first students felt overwhelmed. Then, on the last day of the course, I was able to pull it all together for them, and they told me, “Now it all makes sense.”

CA: What have you learned that makes you a better teacher?

Professor Unubold: I learned that when it comes to teaching it is vitally important to understand the audience, (the students). I need to be aware of how much experience they have and how much they don’t have and teach accordingly. You can’t prepare one course syllabus for all classes, because every class is different with students who vary in how much knowledge they have. I am always updating my courses based on my experience with the students.

CA: When you talk about teaching at MIU, you express a lot of joy. What is it about teaching that gives you so much happiness?

Professor Unubold:  Many things make me happy here. First of all, I enjoy the interaction with the students. I love teaching in person, in class, because I feel the atmosphere. I explain the concept and look at the students and I look at their eyes. You feel it if they understand or if they are confused, even if they don’t speak up, and I can see clearly by the look in their eyes whether they understand or not.

Another joy is when the students come to me and say how interesting the course was and they are thankful for all they learned.

I also enjoy the freedom I have here because there’s enough time to look into other new technologies that I want to teach. I was in the industry a year ago which means I  can help the students more because I know what works and what doesn’t, but there’s always new knowledge coming out. Learning the latest technologies allows me to keep the students up to date so that when they go out into the field they perform better.

CA: What do you like best about teaching MSD students?

Professor Unubold: I notice the determination in MSD students. They put everything into their studies. They are really serious about the program and being successful, and they work very hard. Software engineering requires more hard work than other careers and after my classes, I know my students will do well in the industry.

CA: Can you comment on why you are confident that your students will be ready for good jobs when they graduate?

Professor Unubold: I am super confident that they will be ready to handle a software development position when they graduate. I am running their final projects and when I see the results, it’s very impressive, as they develop a whole application from scratch, from A to Z, frontend to backend. Plus, during this final project, they research a new technology, and they integrate the project with new technology and Cloud services.

My first class already graduated, and one of my students contacted me on LinkedIn and said his technical interview was easy because he had already learned it in class.

CA: How do you feel about TM in your life and for the students?

Professor Unubold: I encourage students to practice TM because it helped me when I was a student. Meditation helped me stay focused and retain the knowledge. When I do TM, I feel more energized, it feels like I have more power.

CA: Do you have any advice for students who are applying for MSD?

Professor Unubold: I would tell them that they will learn lots of new knowledge, every day of the course. They can expect to get overwhelmed, but on graduation day they will feel like they are born again.  To me, the results of the final project demonstrate that they are software engineers because it pulls together everything they learned during the whole 12 to 18 months. They made it!

Why Professor Thao Huy Vu Wants to Share His 20 Years of Experience With MSD Students

Professor Thao MSDProfessor Thao Huy Vu, from Viet Nam, comes to the Masters of Software Development (MSD) faculty with 20 years of software engineering experience, including a distinguished career in software development, and the establishment of his own successful company in Viet Nam. He chose to join the MSD faculty with a sincere desire to share his knowledge with students and because he loves the MIU environment. Read more to learn about his wonderful journey to MIU as a former student and now a faculty member.

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: Can you tell us about your childhood in Viet Nam and how it prepared you for a career in software engineering?

Professor Thao: I was born in a very poor farming area in Vietnam, however, I loved studying math when I was in elementary school and all through high school. I was always the best math student in my school and received several national awards for impoverished and talented students. Before attending Ho Chi Minh University, I did not even know what a computer was, I just knew that I wanted to become an engineer and that information technology was the hottest major at that time. After a year of college, I found that I loved programming.  I studied very hard and got a job as a software engineer when I graduated.

CA: What was your educational and professional background before coming to the USA?

Professor Thao: I received my BS in 2007 with a degree in Information Technology from Ho Chi Minh University of Technology. After graduation, I worked two years for a software company and then received a full scholarship to conduct research about computer networks at Myongji University in South Korea. I wrote a paper about Fault Tolerant Ethernet, which was published in the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) journal, regarding connecting to the internet if there is a problem with the Ethernet connection.

After finishing my Master’s Degree at Myongji University, I worked for a software company in South Korea where I was on a team that developed medical imaging software. I was one of the first people working on that project and I stayed for 4 ½  years. Our software was accepted for purchase in Korea and China, scheduled to sell in Japan and Europe, and finally, accepted by the FDA to sell in the USA.

CA: You had quite a distinguished career in South Korea. What inspired you to come to MIU and join the Computer Science Program (ComPro)?

Professor Thao: After I finished developing the medical imaging software, I didn’t see any more challenges. I wanted to learn more about software development and since the US is the origin of software engineering, I wanted to come here to study.

A friend told me about MIU’s Computer Science (ComPro) program. He had friends who graduated from ComPro and got great jobs developing software in companies like Microsoft and this was very motivating for me. I thought, this is my chance, so I applied for ComPro and became a student in 2015.

CA: Did you notice any benefits from practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) while you were a student and in your career?

Professor Thao: I had 10 years of software experience prior to arriving at MIU, and it was a very demanding career. Software engineering can be stressful and requires a lot of effort, and I couldn’t find a way to handle that. When I saw that TM was offered at MIU, I hoped it would help me relax and I was encouraged to become a student. I practiced TM regularly and it helped me focus and stay rested throughout the Computer Science program, which is a pretty intensive course. I am still a software engineer, and I love developing. TM allows me to relax and get deep rest so I can enjoy coding without the stress and fatigue.  

CA: Did you get that great job you were seeking, when you graduated with the MS in Computer Science?

Professor Thao: Yes, when I finished ComPro, I got a job as a Software Engineer with Operation Technology, Inc. in California for a year, then I moved to Thesys CAT LLC, a subsidiary of Thesys Technologies LLC, in New York. After a year at Thesys Technologies, I decided to go back to Viet Nam and create my own startup business, and within 2 years I developed an e-commerce system and launched my own company.

CA: How did you go from starting your own company in Viet Nam to joining the Masters of Software Development faculty at MIU?

Professor Thao: Last year I received an invitation from MIU to be an instructor in the Masters of Software Development department. I was able to accept the position because I had set up the technical part of my company in Viet Nam and my co-owner was able to run the company with the software I developed.  Technology is growing fast, and even faster since Covid, so many companies are shifting from using humans to using software to run their business, and our company is a perfect example of that.

CA: When did you arrive at MIU to teach the MSD courses?

Professor Thao: I came to MIU in July 2021 and assisted several MSD professors in teaching web application programming, mobile programming, cloud computing, and final projects. In March 2022, I will teach my first course in Server-Side Programming. This is great because I have experience in this field and used this technology in my work at each of my workplaces so I look forward to sharing my knowledge.

CA: How does it feel to be back at MIU?

Professor Thao: I’m excited to teach computer science to MSD students as I have 20 years of experience in the industry and I want to share everything I’ve learned. Plus, I like the environment at MIU because it is peaceful, friendly, and international. I feel like this is my home now and hope I can stay a long time, and that motivates me to do well in my job.

CA: How do you like teaching MSD students?

Professor Thao: I like the MSD students because they are all mature professionals and serious students. I want to transfer my knowledge to them in my courses and it’s interesting because they don’t have a background in computer science, so I have to think twice about how to teach them. I have to explain everything in a common language, which is a bit of a challenge, but it is very satisfying when they understand.

CA: Can you comment about the uniqueness of JavaScript and why it is the primary language taught in the Masters of Software Development program?

Professor Thao: JavaScript is the leading programming language in the world, plus it is easy to learn, which reduces the learning curve. In the past, it was only used on the front end of applications, but in recent years, the environment started using JavaScript for entire applications, both front end, and back end. For example, to work in Full Stack, we don’t need to hire two people because the back end also uses JavaScript. So, JavaScript is best for the new architecture, called microservices, which means that a big application can be divided into many small applications and each area is completely independent.

CA: What was it like, teaching during Covid?

Professor Thao: With MSD students, I prefer that they come to class in person so I can work closely with them, see their coding immediately, and help correct any mistakes. We practice social distancing and everyone wears masks in the classroom. However, if a student is unhealthy, they can take the class online until they recover, so everyone is able to attend classes and not fall behind.

CA: What do you think is special about the MSD program?

Professor Thao: There are many special things about the MSD program. First,  the technical curriculum contains all the courses needed to cover the basic and fundamental knowledge of computer science. Secondly, the block system, where all the courses are taught one at a time, in one-month segments, helps them understand the fundamentals and gradually learn newer technologies. By the time they finish the program they have everything they need to know and the latest technologies for the market. Thirdly, I like the university’s system of using TM to improve the students’ awareness and ability to focus, which will help them expand their knowledge of technology.

CA: Can you expand on the benefits of practicing TM for the students?

Professor Thao: As you know, technology is changing very fast. Software developers must expand their knowledge almost every day. In the software industry, if programmers don’t expand, they go backward. To move forward, they will need a tool like TM in the workplace, so they can stay rested and fresh, have clear and focused minds, and continue to advance their technical knowledge.

CA:  Do you have any advice for students who are considering applying to the MSD program?

Professor Thao: I would tell new students that technology is our future and software development will require more and more software engineers in the market over time. If you want to change your career and become a software developer, and you are ready to put the effort and commitment into this program, now is the time to do it.  

MSD is an intensive program, but MIU provides three vital ways for students to succeed: 1) a curriculum with all the knowledge needed to become a proficient software developer,  2) an environment conducive for gaining that knowledge, and 3) the tools to develop consciousness so you can absorb and retain the knowledge and grow in self-development.

It’s a wonderful program, our graduates are getting great jobs, and we are here to help them every step of the way.