Tesfaye and His Family’s Journey to MIU’s Master’s of Software Development

Tesfaye headshotMeet Tesfaye Abrha, from Ethiopia, who made the bold decision to relocate with his family from Ethiopia to Maryland, and finally to Maharishi International University (MIU) to join the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program. Tesfaye’s journey from stability in a bustling Maryland city to uprooting his family for the pursuit of educational and career advancement is an inspiring example that change is attainable for anyone seeking to enhance their career opportunities.

“MSD is a great opportunity to change your direction from your current career to computer science. Even if you come from a different background, if you have an interest in IT and computer programming, I encourage you to join. You can have a master’s degree and a BA degree in different subjects, but if you want to get into Software Development, this is the program for you.” ~ Tesfaye Abrha

Interview by Christine Albers

Tesfaye Abrha and his family were fortunate winners of the United States Diversity Visa Lottery of 2019. At that time, Tesfaye, who had a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, was pursuing an MBA in Construction Management at Addis Ababa Science and Technology University while working as an office engineer for a construction company. Despite having just four months left to complete his master’s degree, he made the bold decision to leave his studies and relocate to the USA with his family, arriving in Maryland just in time to celebrate the holiday season and welcome the New Year in 2019.

Upon his arrival in Maryland, he promptly enrolled at Montgomery Community College to gain certification in apartment maintenance, a program offered by the American National Apartment Association. Following the successful completion of this program, he worked for a real estate and property management company and dedicated four years to this field before taking the transformative step of enrolling in the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) Program at MIU.

Tesfaye and his wife are the proud parents of a wonderful seven-year-old son and a beautiful baby daughter, who is just four months old. Together, they made the courageous choice to seize this opportunity for Tesfaye to embark on a new career path in software development.

CA (Christine): How did you learn about MIU?

Tesfaye: A friend told me about MIU, and I remember asking myself, “Is this a place where my family could thrive?” Back then, it seemed like a distant dream. Over time, my friend completed the MSD program and secured a promising job. He assured me that we could find suitable housing for my family in Fairfield and that the MSD program was exceptional. I decided to apply but COVID-19 caused delays. Finally, in January 2023, I joined the MSD program.

CA: What inspired you to join MSD?

Tesfaye: While working in Maryland, I was searching for a university that would accommodate my educational background in civil engineering while providing computer science courses. I discovered that the MSD program would recognize my unique background and offer a valuable pre-enrollment program to help me transition into the computer science curriculum. This pre-enrollment program provided exposure for newcomers like me who lacked a formal computer science foundation.

CA: Do you have any advice for new MSD students?

Tesfaye: I would tell new students who are interested in coding, web development, and web applications, that the MSD department offers a free Pre-Enrollment Coding Course, which I consider an absolute necessity. I wholeheartedly recommend that incoming students take advantage of this course. Personally, it took me two months to complete it, because I was still working full-time in Maryland. However, once I started MSD and took my first JavaScript class, I immediately recognized the immense benefits I gained because I started my first class with a sense of familiarity with coding. 

CA: How was your transition from Maryland to Iowa?

Tesfaye: It was a big challenge to quit my job and move to a new state as a family. I drove a long way to get here, and I had never driven more than 100 miles in the US. After I was settled, my wife and son joined me here in Fairfield. It was a great pleasure for me to have them with me and they were happy to be here with me too.

In Maryland, the metropolitan area is very large, and Fairfield is very small, but the people here are good people. It’s easier to be friendly. For example, when we went to Walmart for the first time people were very welcoming and said hi.

CA: Most of the students in MSD are single. How has having a family affected your experience?

Tesfaye: Bringing my family from another state added a layer of complexity to our journey. There were various social and logistical considerations, including dealing with insurance companies. Initially, we assumed our Maryland insurance would seamlessly transfer to Iowa, but it wasn’t accepted here. This became frustrating, especially considering my wife was pregnant at the time. However, after some effort, we managed to secure insurance at a reasonable rate.

Moreover, when my wife arrived, she was already six months pregnant, and we discovered that the nearest doctor was in Ottumwa. This meant I had to occasionally miss class to drive her there once a week. As newcomers, we lacked a support network of friends or family in the area, and our son was in school, so we couldn’t leave him home alone.

It was hard to even ask permission to miss class once a week, but my professors understood our situation, they were very helpful and luckily our classes were recorded so I could watch them at night and still be ready for the next day.

CA: How do you like programming?

Tesfaye: It’s a new language for me. I had never taken Java courses before, and coding was new, fantastic, and interesting. How it works is fascinating, especially for someone like me who comes from a different background in civil engineering, which is quite different from computer science. Learning coding and what the language means is like the way we communicate in any language, like English, but coding is a language between the person and the computer. It’s interesting.

CA: How are your professors?

Tesfaye: Our MSD professors are so great. They offer as much knowledge as they can incorporate into the classes.  They want us to comprehend everything and they do their best to deliver in a way that we can absorb and retain the knowledge.

CA: Do you feel you are getting all the knowledge necessary to gain a great job?

Tesfaye: While it requires dedicated practice over time to establish a strong foundation in coding and to become a proficient web developer, MSD offers a unique advantage. Our professors not only provide guidance, but they also empower us with the knowledge and skills needed to continue our journey independently.

Additionally, I’m thankful for the Career Strategies department, which offers us a valuable one-month course tailored to prepare us for job interviews and the technical examination at the end of the program as well as essential skills for the job market.

CA: Where do you want to live when you graduate?

Tesfaye: Our plans are somewhat flexible and contingent on my job opportunities. Ideally, we’d consider returning to either Maryland or Seattle, but it primarily hinges on where I can secure employment. We might opt to stay here in Fairfield, especially if I can work remotely. One compelling reason for this is that our son is currently enrolled in the Maharishi School, and we believe in the benefits of a stable educational environment. For him, it’s valuable to continue attending the same school for an extended period, perhaps 3, 4, or even 5 years. He’s an active and sociable young boy who thrives here, and his happiness is a top priority for us.

CA: Why did you choose Maharishi School for your son?

Tesfaye: According to NICHE.com, Maharishi School is recognized as the top-ranking Private K-12 School in Iowa.  I was impressed by the school’s exceptional educational system and curriculum, which places a strong emphasis on science and technology.

We also liked the school’s incorporation of Transcendental Meditation (TM) into the learning process. The TM practice contributes to a sense of calm and composure among the students and plays a significant role in shaping their attitudes and behaviors toward science, the natural world, and their interpersonal relationships. We wanted a school like this for our son.

CA: What would you say to someone who wants to join MSD?

Tesfaye: MSD provides a great opportunity to change your direction from your current career to computer science. Even if you come from a different background, if you have an interest in IT and computer programming, I encourage you to join. You can have a master’s degree and a BA degree in different subjects, but if you want to get into Software Development, this is the program for you.




Professor Tina Xing’s Five Tips for Student Success

Meet Professor Rujuan (Tina) Xing, who has been an MIU faculty member for seven years, and learn why she loves teaching MSD students.  Like you, Tina had no prior computer programming experience, so she knows how to teach this knowledge in ways you can understand. You’ll enjoy reading the amazing story of how she found MIU and joined the MIU faculty. Her approach to teaching is unique and thorough so be sure to read TINA’S FIVE TIPS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS.

“My undergraduate degree was in Automation, and I learned to program later, so I know from my own experience that students can become masters of programming without prior experience.  I thought I could help the students because I was like them. I also know that learning a new technology is stressful and there’s so much pressure during the first stage.

 When I was working as a developer, most of the time I thought if it works, great. We didn’t have to think about deep theory. As a professor, I need to understand the content because I must explain it to the students. However, some students understand one way, and others learn another way, so I must teach in the way they need to learn…. I’m proud of them and proud of myself when I can help them understand the content.” ~ Professor Tina Xing

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: I love your approach to teaching, Tina. Can you tell us about your journey to MIU?

Tina Xing Family Professor Tina: My husband and I learned about MIU in China before we were married. We saw ads on the internet, and he said, “You try it first. Go there and find out if it is real.”

I joined the MS in Computer Science, (ComPro), in 2012. When I arrived in the United States from Nanjing, Jiangsu, China, everything was new. I had no relatives or friends, and I was lonely. But soon MIU became like a second hometown. It provided a peaceful, friendly, and helpful environment which cured my homesickness. I made new friends among my classmates and learned lots of technologies from my professors, and gradually it felt like home.

After receiving my MS from ComPro, I worked for 3 years in Austin TX, where I always talked about how wonderful and peaceful I felt in Fairfield. I was so lonely in Austin, so I worked overtime and spent weekends in the office, until one day my boss came in on a Sunday afternoon and said, “Tina, go out and enjoy your life.”

I went back to China for a short visit in 2013 and my husband and I were married. I applied for the F-2, spouse visa, and he came here in 2014 and worked remotely in management for his Chinese company. Eventually, his company didn’t want him to work abroad so he lost his job. I suggested applying for MIU’s Computer Professionals MS program (ComPro) and he joined in 2015.

CA: What has been your experience as a faculty member?

Professor Tina: It’s wonderful here. I left Austin and joined the MIU faculty in September 2015, so I’ve been a faculty member for over seven years. I hadn’t expected I would stay so long. I thought I would leave earlier, but it turns out that I love this place.

Right after I joined MIU faculty, my husband graduated from ComPro and took a job in San Jose. We had spent most of our married life apart, so we were used to it. But in 2020, when Covid 19 struck, his company laid off many of their employees, and he came back and joined MIU faculty. It’s been wonderful to live and work in the same place.

If we hadn’t had Covid 19, probably I wouldn’t have my baby girl. We couldn’t put her in daycare, as she was so young, so there was only me and my husband to take care of her. We asked MIU to schedule our courses so one of us was always home to take care of her and we really appreciate that the school did that for us. It was amazing.

Another wonderful aspect of MIU is that we all practice TM. My meditation has been very helpful for me as well. My personality has become calmer. I can be a quick-tempered person, but after meditating for many years, I feel my temper is easier. I can still get excited, and my voice can get louder and louder, but I catch myself and calm down. It’s spontaneous, like self-awareness that alerts you.

CA: What subjects do you teach?

Professor Tina: At the beginning, I taught only ComPro courses but there’s one course, Web Programming (WAP), which is very related to MSD.  When the MSD program was created, the MSD Director, Professor Asaad Saad, asked if I could teach some courses for MSD.

I was happy to teach MSD students because I knew most MSD students have either no experience in programming or very little. My undergraduate degree was in Automation, and I learned to program later, so I know that they can become masters of programming without prior experience.  I thought I could help the students because I was like them. I also know that learning a new technology is stressful and there’s so much pressure during the first stage. I wanted to teach MSD because I can help them, and I want to share my knowledge. I like the JavaScript programming language, which is the most cutting-edge, interesting, and popular programming language now.

CA: What is special about teaching MSD students?

Professor Tina: These students are so enthusiastic about learning new technologies. They ask lots of questions which makes me think deeper about how to help them master this content. I had to find several different ways to teach, and it improved my own knowledge and teaching abilities.

When I was working as a developer, most of the time I thought if it works, great. I didn’t question why it worked. As a professor, I need to understand every aspect of the content, so usually, I ask myself 3 questions: What, how, and why? By doing so, I can explain it to the students well. However, some students understand one way, and others learn another way, so I must teach in the way they need to learn.

With some students, I can give them a hint and let them think. But some students don’t learn well that way. I must guide them from beginning to end to find the answers and give them the chance to think on their own. So, I give them another problem to solve, and if they can solve one problem, I change some part of it, so that it’s completely different.  Slowly I change the question bit by bit until they understand it. I’m proud of them and proud of myself when I can help them understand the content.

CA: What inspires you about the students and how do you keep them motivated?

Professor Tina: Most of the MSD students left their families in other countries and came here alone. They are very keen on mastering the languages and everything we teach them. In class, we have a professor/student relationship, but after class, we are friends and share hobbies.  But I still try to make learning fun while we are in class. When students are very tired, and their brains cannot absorb any more knowledge, it’s better to have a rest. As Maharishi said, “rest and activity are the steps of progress.” Sometimes I play a little bit of a funny Chinese movie to make them laugh. It’s very helpful for making them feel fresh, so we can continue in class.

CA: How does MSD prepare students for great jobs?

Professor Tina: First, the university chose the great program language, JavaScript, which is the most cutting-edge and popular language, and many companies are hiring JavaScript developers. The content we teach is wonderful.

Secondly, the courses we teach in the MSD program are also cutting-edge. We stay up to date with what is popular and is getting a lot of attention so we can share it with our students. We build the curriculum, even though there are new technologies, and we still compare new versions with old versions. Not all our graduates will join a company and start on a brand-new project. Some companies might be using old versions of frameworks. So, we teach old and new versions and compare the new versions and how they improve the old versions. This will help them find a very good job when they graduate from MSD.

We also teach them how to learn a new language on their own, because we only teach one language and a selection of frameworks. When they get a job, they will experience many other technologies, so we help them develop the ability to learn things by themselves, quickly and easily.

Even if I was not on the MIU faculty, I would recommend this program to friends, because it is a comprehensive program that guides them from having no experience to becoming a master of this knowledge and eventually finding a good job as a software developer.

CA: Do you have any advice for students who want to join the program?

Professor Tina: As I mentioned before, my major was Automation. I had no programming experience, so in the first month when we learned Java, I didn’t understand anything at all.  It took me one or two months to feel like I knew what I was doing, such as why a particular line worked or didn’t work.

I have learned a lot from my experience and I’m happy to share my tips for success with anyone interested in becoming a computer professional and joining the MSD program.

Professor Tina’s Five Tips for Success:

  1. Stay confident. Be brave enough to explore a new area. You may not know what will happen in the future but stay confident in your decision to join the MSD program. You cannot go back and rethink once you are here. Just go for it.
  2. Don’t compare yourself with others. Some people will be slower, and some will be quicker. Use your energy efficiently and focus on your studies. When we learn new things, we tend to compare ourselves with other students. Don’t compare. Just do your best.
  3. Practice on your own and review. You may think you understand everything the professor says in the lecture, but after class, you need to practice and do your own work, so you don’t forget what you learned. You must review frequently, or you will forget quickly. Try to code every line by yourself to make the knowledge yours. Only when you code by yourself will you find the parts you have not mastered.
  4. Get a whiteboard and write a program from scratch. Keep trying again and again until you can write the program by hand, from beginning to end, without errors. As you do this more and more you will retain the knowledge you learned in class. And it will help prepare you for interviews in the future.
  5. Maintain a feeling of success, not failure. Don’t lose confidence and feel like you could fail. Try a third way, a fourth way, even a fifth way, and you will find a solution. Don’t be beat! Remember we are all here to help you on your path to success.

CA: Many thanks to you, Tina, for sharing your story and your tips for success!



Why Rick Rudloff, Former Product Marketer, Teacher, Baker, and Business Owner Chose a Career in Software Development

“Everybody that I’ve encountered, including my professors, fellow students, MSD administrators, and MIU staff, have all been absolutely the sweetest people on the planet and unbelievably supportive and helpful.  I love the environment that I am in. You could not ask for a better environment as a student.” ~ Rick Rudloff

Meet Rick Rudloff, a devoted parent and grandparent, baker, business owner, professional card player, and teacher of high school Physics, Mathematics, and Rocketry. A 1986 graduate of the University of Missouri-Rolla, Rick worked in Instrumentation and Product Marketing for Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Colorado and Europe for 11 years. Working for HP was his dream job and Colorado was his dream place to live, but that was just the beginning of his career journey. Learn how Rick discovered the Master’s in Software Development program and decided to become a JavaScript Software Developer.

Interview by Christine Albers (CA)

CA: You have such a diverse background, Rick. When did you first arrive in Fairfield, and how did one career evolve into the other over the years?

Rick: Rick: In 1999, when my daughter was a teenager, I moved to Fairfield, Iowa, and started teaching Mathematics and Physics at Maharishi School, where my daughter was a junior. These were the last two years of my daughter’s high school education, and I was her Math and Physics teacher. That was lots of fun and it was my first foray into teaching. When she graduated high school, we moved to Florida for three years while she attended the University of Florida, and I was an investor and real estate developer.

My mom was living in Fairfield, and she had some health issues. So, in 2012, I moved back to look after her and returned to Maharishi School. Then, in 2018, I started a pastry business.  Trying to do the pastry business while teaching Math, Physics, and Rocketry was a total burnout so I decided to continue with the pastry business and cut back to only teaching competition rocketry. Eventually, I let go of the pastry business because it wasn’t generating enough income and required many long hours.  I figured, if I was spending so much time on something, I should be well-paid, and that was the start of my interest in MSD.

CA: What specifically drew you to MSD? 

Rick:  I was thinking about going back to a normal job in a corporate America technical field and I always wanted to get a Master’s degree. I had some programming experience back at HP with the HP 41C, which was an assembly type of programming language tool, and I loved programming then, so that was one important draw for me to pursue the Master’s in Software Development.

Perhaps the biggest motivation for going through MSD centers around my daughter because she lives in Nashville, TN, and has two six-year-old kids. They’re twins, and I have a strong desire to be close to them, and I also love the Nashville area. I was motivated to join MSD so I can gain a great occupation in software development and live and work anywhere, including Nashville.

CA: How are you doing on MSD so far?  

Rick: I always do my level best to get the absolute highest score possible and have no problem taking as much time as needed to learn and master the material. With MSD, I love the material and enjoy learning all I can.

But I will tell you, this is not a cakewalk. I chose the 12-month Accelerated Program instead of the 18-month program which provides more foundational courses. When I looked at both paths, I could see pluses and minuses to going down either one. If I chose the 18-month program, where my level of knowledge was already strong in some courses, it would be relatively relaxed for the first 3 or 4 months. That would have been an easier path for me to get back into school.

However, I have this urgency because I’m a little older than most of my classmates and I want to move to Nashville to be near my daughter and her family as soon as I can. So that was the driver to join the MSD 12-month program.

CA: What inspires you most about MSD? 

Rick:  Everybody that I’ve encountered, including my professors, fellow students, MSD administrators, and MIU staff, have all been absolutely the sweetest people on the planet and unbelievably supportive and helpful.  I love the environment that I am in. You could not ask for a better environment as a student.

CA: What do you like best about the MSD approach to education?

Rick: I really appreciate the Block System versus traditional education with 5 or 6 classes a semester. For example, with traditional education, four math courses would take two years. With the block system, we can take all four classes in one semester and each course builds on the previous course.

I also like the Final Projects a lot. We had our first team project during our second course, and I loved it. In software development, each person works on a particular part of the project and is responsible for keeping the rest of the team updated, so we complement each other. No one person can complete the project on their own.  I chose to work in an area where I needed more experience and that helped with my final grade.  The final projects prepare us for the corporate world, where software developers work in teams and it’s very rare to not work on a team.

CA: How do you like the international culture at MIU?

Rick: It’s great to meet people from so many different countries and cultures, but the cool thing is being surrounded by people who are super sharp. We all help each other. We learn from our smarter classmates and help those who don’t understand. I love everyone in my class. It is super sweet.

CA: How does your Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice fit in with the MSD program?

Rick: I learned TM when I was 13 years old, so my history with TM is a bit different from the other students because I have been meditating regularly for many years. Now that I’m on MSD, I appreciate TM more than ever and see how extremely powerful the technique is for minimizing stress. It takes my mind off the urgency of the moment by providing some peaceful time to check out, rest my mind and refresh my body, and come back to work feeling clearer and ready to take it on. I think the other MSD students like it too. We meditate together in class, and I notice everyone takes it seriously.

CA: Do you have any advice for prospective MSD students?

Rick: I bumped into an acquaintance who was interested in joining MSD, but he didn’t have much computer background, so I recommended the 18-month program, which I recommend to anyone who doesn’t have a strong computer background.

I told him, “You’ll be stretched, so take the time to learn more before you start the program. I had some computer background from Hewlett-Packard, but I still taught myself JavaScript over the summer so I could pass the entrance exam and get into the 12-month program. You will also need to study before you start the 18-month program. And be sure to clear your schedule because there is no time for any other work. MSD requires constant focus and attention.”

CA: Any last comments on the program?

Rick: If you love learning, this is the program for you. There are so many ways to approach a problem and get a solution, but programming is an opportunity to use your creativity and knowledge, so when you do find the solution, it is super rewarding.

Sharada’s Amazing GPA with No Prior Computer Science Experience

How does Sharada maintain a high GPA without any prior computer science experience?

Learn about Sharada’s journey to join the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) and her strategy for success! 

By Christine Albers

MSD Student Sharada“I’m so happy to be here in the MSD program. I love software development because we can use our imagination to create programs that do amazing things and make life easier. The age we live in is all about technological innovations and it’s awesome to be part of this. I would tell potential students that if they choose MSD, it will be the best decision they ever made. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who doesn’t have a computer background because they can gain a master’s degree in 12 months and be the person the job market is seeking.” ~ Sharada Khatiwada

 Sharada Khatiwada grew up in a small village in eastern Nepal. She loves traveling, trekking, hiking, and being close to nature. “Since Nepal is a country with Himalayan mountains and various landscapes, we have many trekking routes,” she said. “I had the thrilling experience as part of an adventurous trek to Annapurna Base Camp and Namche Trek (on the way to Mt. Everest) where I especially enjoyed the beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking views of the mountains. It was a very adventurous, fun, and memorable trip and one of my greatest personal achievements.”

Sharada always wanted to study software development. However, computer science courses weren’t available in her area of Nepal, so she got her bachelor’s degree in Business Studies. After graduating, she went to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, where she interned as an accounting assistant. She then volunteered at a government school in the western part of Nepal. “I always wanted to travel and explore different places, and I still had an interest in software development. I knew I needed a higher level of education in computer programming, but I wasn’t sure how or where to gain it.  Also, my formal education was not aligned with my interest,” she explained.

Her husband, Rajiv Neupane, a 2016 ComPro graduate and software developer, suggested that Sharada could gain web development training by working with computer professionals in a corporation. She followed his advice and started an internship with a local company, which marked the starting point of her journey toward software development. “I was doing well there,” Sharada said, “but then Covid came and impacted every sector so badly that I couldn’t continue my internship.”

Successful Computer-Science Couple

In 2020, Rajiv received an announcement about a new Master’s in Software Development (MSD) that didn’t require a computer science background. Any bachelor’s degree was acceptable for this program. “When my husband told me about the MSD program, I was very excited to learn that the university was providing an opportunity for everyone, even those without a technical educational background,” said Sharada. “I especially liked the idea of the block system that the university follows and loved the idea of integrating Transcendental Meditation to increase productivity. I decided to apply to MIU, and here I am. I have a dream of working as a professional software developer in the technology field and I believe MSD will guide me through every step to achieve it.”

“From the minute I arrived in August 2022 I felt very good at MIU,” Sharada continued. “Everyone was so friendly and helpful that I immediately felt at home. The first few weeks were challenging because there was a big gap between my background and the knowledge in the course, but I studied hard and spent 6 or 7 hours studying for every assignment. After 2 or 3 weeks it felt easier, and I feel comfortable now. I study for 4 to 6 hours every night, so by the weekend, I feel lazy. Everyone in class must do this to keep up, but TM helps very much. It’s life-changing. It helps me concentrate better and improves my sleeping patterns, so I am more rested. It’s great that we get a chance to learn TM here,” she said.

“The Block system is another great part of our program,” Sharada said, “We take one course at a time, so we can focus and go more deeply into each subject. The courses are cumulative, with each building on the previous one, and in 12 months we will be competent for the market. I’m so happy to be here. I love software development because we can use our imagination to create programs that do amazing things and make life easier. The current age we live in is all about technological innovations and it’s awesome to be a part of this.”

“I would tell potential students that if they choose MSD, it will be the best decision they ever made. It’s a great opportunity for anyone who doesn’t have a computer background because they can gain a master’s degree in 12 months and be the person the job market is seeking.”









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!

Professor Asaad Saad and His Beautiful Philosophy of Teaching

Professor Asaad Saad, beloved Director of the Master’s in Software Development program at MIU, receives such extraordinary reviews from his students that we were eager to sit with him and learn why they speak so highly of him. Is it his philosophy of teaching? Or the artist that he sees in every student? Let’s find out.

Interview by Christine Albers

Asaad received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Aleppo University, Syria, in 2001.  After graduating, he worked on many web development projects at businesses and government industries for 15 years.  During that time, Asaad worked and lived in Lebanon, Jordan, and Abu Dhabi. His last position, before coming to the USA, was with the Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi where he worked for 7 years until he made the life-changing decision to come to MIU.

CA: How did you learn about MIU, Asaad?

Asaad: A friend in Abu Dhabi told me about the Masters in Computer Science program (ComPro) at MIU. He said, “Let’s try applying together and see how it goes.” I wasn’t that interested, but I took the ComPro entrance exam and gained acceptance to the program. Somehow my visa was delayed and I continued working at the Ministry which I enjoyed very much.  I was living my life and almost forgot about ComPro when I got a call from the embassy saying that my visa is ready. My friend was already at MIU, so I asked him about the program before making my decision. He said, “Come now. It’s a change that you should make in your life.”

CA: That’s very interesting as so many students say the same thing. A friend will tell them, “Drop everything and come,” and it changes their life. So, did your friend give you the nudge you needed to come to MIU?

Asaad: Yes, he influenced me, but the situation in the Middle East was also a factor as it was complicated at that time because of the raging war in Syria. I hadn’t been able to see my family for two years while I was in Abu Dhabi. I was losing hope about doing anything in the Middle East and thought maybe it was a good idea to make a change and go to the United States. So that, combined with my friend’s encouragement, motivated me to come to MIU.

CA: You started at MIU as a ComPro student. How did you go from being a student to running the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) program?

Asaad: I started in the Computer Science program in 2014, and at some point, I was acknowledged by some of the senior faculty in the department. I loved MIU and the combination of practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) with Computer Science. I learned about a position for someone with experience in JavaScript and web development, and I had long experience in those areas. Dr. Keith Levi, Dean of the College of Computer Science, offered me a position in the department. I finished all my courses, received my Master’s in Computer Science, and I joined the Computer Science faculty in 2015.

CA: How did that lead to becoming the Director of the Masters in Software Development (MSD)?

Asaad: In 2018, while I was on ComPro faculty, Dr.Levi suggested creating more courses relating to JavaScript. He asked me to design a curriculum, so I started talking to friends and faculty members about what was needed, and I prepared the courses.  We started offering the program to people with any Bachelor’s degree, even if they had no computer science background in 2019. It was a big adventure because we needed to take the students from very little knowledge of computer science to becoming competent JavaScript developers. It was a learning experience for all of us.

CA: I hear so many great things about you from your MSD students. What do you love best about teaching?

Asaad: Nothing compares to having the ability to help students make positive changes in their lives. I may have some hard times in my life, stress, etc., but when I get feedback from former students who reconnect with me and tell me what a big impact I had on their professional lives, I know I am doing the right thing. MSD Director Asaad at Graduation party

CA: Do you have a philosophy of teaching?

Asaad: I enjoy giving and I also enjoy simplifying concepts. I’m not the kind of teacher who goes to the lecture and reads something and leaves. I make sure that by the end of every lecture, every student has absorbed the concepts. I will explain any concept a million times until everyone understands it.

CA: Is it harder for MSD students because they don’t have a computer background?

Asaad: Any students who succeed in MSD find that coding is a natural talent. Coding isn’t hard. They don’t have to study a lot of math before they can become programmers. It’s a lot of work, but if they are persistent and have the aptitude they can succeed and it’s enjoyable if they love programming. I see coding as an art, really.

CA: Can you explain why you see coding as an art?

Asaad: Computer code is like notes of music in a music score. If you give any piece of music to different musicians or even an orchestra, each plays it in their way. They translate that piece into their own feelings and emotions during the performance. You never hear the same performance more than once. For instance, when I play the violin, I play differently every time, depending on my emotions.

Similarly, when I look at my students’ coding, I see each one as an artist, creating code according to their own creative instincts. There’s an art to coding, just like music. That’s the beauty of computer science.

CA: You obviously have a great love of music and I understand you are an accomplished violinist.

Asaad: I studied music as a child back in Syria. My sister and brother went to a Russian music institute and I studied violin for 6 years after school hours. My parents loved music and encouraged all our family to play instruments. My sister played piano, my brother played clarinet, and I chose the violin. I played with the Chamber Orchestra in Aleppo and the Damascus Orchestra, and then the United Arab Emirate Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra during my entire residency in the United Arab Emirates. When I came to the United States, I joined the Southeast Iowa Symphony and have been playing with them for the last seven years.


CA: How are MSD students different from students at other universities?

Asaad: Our students are always motivated, hard-working, determined to change their lives, most of them were stuck in their lives at some point for various reasons. They hear about programming and software development and it’s a highly paid job. They are looking for a change in their lives for the better, and they find this place is the best place for that change. So, when they arrive at MIU they want to take full advantage of this program and are determined to succeed.

CA: What do you think of the Block System?

Assad: The block system is pretty unique. It’s easy because the students take one subject at a time, but hard because they have to learn and study everything each day. At the end of each block, they take an exam, so there is no time to slack off. But the advantage is that each block prepares you for the next one, so it’s like climbing a ladder.

CA: What do students enjoy most when studying MSD courses?

Asaad: In the afternoon sessions the students work in groups on certain ideas and projects and they build them together. This is a very enjoyable activity for students and it’s important for them because they can add these projects to their resume, and by the time they graduate they already have a portfolio of projects to show to prospective employers.

CA: What do you like best about MIU?

Asaad: Probably the support in my department. I never had so much support in the work environment.  We work as one team and we support each other in all aspects. That is number 1.

Secondly, I love the culture that we have in Fairfield due to the meditating community with the peaceful, lovely people who smile all the time. You never find this in other parts of the US, or in any place in the world. I have traveled a lot around the USA and I always feel Fairfield is home.

CA: What did you think of Transcendental Meditation when you arrived at MIU?

Asaad: I learned TM when I came to the university but I didn’t realize the benefits until about 6 months after learning. It took a while to get deep inside of me, but with regular checking, I started enjoying it more and I saw that meditation helped me in my daily life. It helped me focus, advance, and learn more. Maybe that’s why I’m successful.

Now that I have been meditating regularly for several years, I feel the benefits and have a deep appreciation for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who decided to teach meditation and start this school. I learned more advanced techniques and I’m grateful to be given this gift. When I see that students come here from all over the world and meditate twice a day, that’s awesome.

I’m an ambassador for angular framework and when I go to conferences and tell people about how we teach TM and combine it with computer science in the form of Consciousness-based education, they think it is probably the most brilliant idea ever.

Asaad Speaking at Conference

CA: Do you enjoy the international culture?

Asaad: It’s amazing. I love the international culture. When I lived in the United Arab Emirates, the environment was international and I worked with people from all around the world. Abu Dhabi is an international city with a diverse environment and when I came to MIU I felt like I was home because it has a diverse international student population. Even the MSD students who are residents come from all over the world.

CA: Do you have any advice for prospective students?

Asaad: I would say, just come. Don’t think twice. This will be the best decision you will ever make. Of course, you need to have the desire and the passion for learning. The program isn’t going to be easy, but MIU will help in every way. Our graduates are so proud they completed the program and we are so proud of them. They did it! And they did it with all the help and support from MIU faculty and staff. MSD requires serious work, like any Master’s degree, but if they have passion for software development, they can succeed, and this is reflected by two graduating classes who have 100% placement in great jobs. We are very proud of our MSD graduates.











Top MSD Graduate Jeremy Chronister Creates a New Life for Himself and His Family

“The Master’s in Software Development (MSD) is set up to help you succeed. You can come here knowing that the faculty will do all they can to help, and then, with the team projects, your classmates work with you and everyone helps each other. It’s a great environment, very supportive, and set up for learning and moving forward.  It’s an investment year of your life, but in the end, it will be worth it.” ~ Jeremy Chronister

By Christine Albers

It takes a lot of courage and determination to pack up yourself, your wife, 3 young children, 30 beehives, and a kayak, and move from Tennessee to Iowa to pursue a new career. But Jeremy Chronister did it – and he’s glad he did. After working in the paper industry as an engineer for 19 years Jeremy knew it was time for a change. “Paper mills are an old school industry,” he explains. He was in the fine papers industry, which includes printer paper, magazines, etc. and much of it was declining. He had enjoyed creating some computer programs at the job and wanted to gain more expertise in computer technology. But where to go? Most computer science Master’s programs require a BA in computer science and Jeremy’s degree was in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maine. Then he found the Master’s in Software Development program at MIU.

CA: How did you become interested in computer science?

Jeremy: I learned early in my career that life is a lot easier if you can automate things.  I wanted to get into computer programming, but it’s hard to get over that hump of not having a strong computer science background. I taught myself some visual basic and JavaScript but needed training in modern frameworks.

CA: How did you hear about MIU?

Jeremy: I learned about MIU through my mother-in-law who lives in Fairfield, Iowa. She told me there was a new Master’s in Software Development (MSD) which didn’t require any experience or background in computer science. We weren’t sure how it was going to go, because in 2019 it was only in its first year, so we waited and watched the first class and it turned out great. All the graduates got good jobs so I felt encouraged to apply. The MSD program covers all the in-demand technologies and offers a well-rounded education which was a heads up for me.

CA: Was MSD everything you hoped for?

Jeremy: I learned a lot and I liked the block schedule where you work on one subject at a time and everything builds from the class before it. We used what we just learned in our next class and I liked that we didn’t have to keep switching up subjects like at other colleges.

CA: Was it challenging?

Jeremy: It was challenging but my classmates were great and we all helped each other when we ran into problems. Plus, our professors were very helpful and willing to assist whenever we needed it.

CA: How was the international culture?

Jeremy: Catching the accents of everyone was difficult at first but I finally got there. Ironically, I was told I have an accent which I couldn’t believe! Once you get the rhythm, the other languages are easier to understand, especially since many of the international students had been in the USA for a few years.

I really liked meeting people from so many countries, such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Pakistan, Nepal, and China. They were polite and fun to work with. We were all in the same boat, trying to improve our lives no matter where we came from. It was a good opportunity and it expanded my understanding of the world to see that the news doesn’t show you everything. They are all people like me.

MSD friends with Jeremy at graduation

CA: How are the faculty?

Jeremy: They are excellent,  always helpful, and trying to assist and challenge us. They got us started on an idea for a project and encouraged us to learn the details and implement it on our own. We learned how to read the API documentation which we will need in the future when we are constantly learning new technologies. It will be important to be self-sufficient and work out problems independently in the working environment.

CA: Now that you have finished MSD, how do you feel about programming?

Jeremy: I really enjoy programming because you can make it into an art. You can create code that moves smoothly or roughly; it’s up to the programmer to make it easy for everyone to understand what you are doing and minimize any redundance.

CA: How did you like working on a team?

Jeremy: If you have a good team, it goes pretty smoothly. As long as the code works and passes the tests there is a lot of room to play,  so each person can do their part, with their own style.  Everyone writes slightly differently, but we keep to the standards and then put it all together to make one full application. It’s great to see it all work in the end.

CA: Do you feel ready for a job as a JavaScript web developer?

Jeremy: I feel comfortable with everything we covered in the curriculum and our professors always gave us the latest popular framework.  Although each company might use different standards, once we learn one framework, we can quickly learn others because they are usually similar ideologies.

CA: What qualities are needed to succeed as a JavaScript programmer?

Jeremy: A good programmer needs to be detail-oriented and also a little creative, able to spin ideas in a different way. If they learn one skill, they should be able to spin it and apply it to something else. I do not think everyone can be a programmer, because everyone is given different gifts and talents. The ability to write programs requires being able to break a problem down into logical steps which will be combined to accomplish your goal.

CA: How did you do all this with a family?

Jeremy: My family was very supportive. We have 3 girls, ages 5, 7, 9, and my wife home schools them. They always made sure I went to school and gave me time to do my TM and study at night. My wife wanted me to do this because of the opportunity to get a good job in the end. They helped me stay rested during the year and I was in bed every night by 10:00 pm, which helped me be alert during classes in the day.

CA: How do you feel about your TM practice? Did it help you in school?

Jeremy: I learned TM when I arrived at MIU and it was questionable at first, but I was willing to try it because of all the  good research on the benefits.

For me, the effects were more subtle. It helped my mind settle down so I had more clarity. I think it helped me learn more and absorb the material because I could focus better without all the racing thoughts.

CA: Will you continue your TM now that you have graduated?

Jeremy:  I plan to continue meditating. I’ve kept it up since graduating and hope to stay in the routine of doing it each day when I get a new job.

CA: How’s the job search going?

Jeremy: I took a few weeks off after my courses ended to spend time with my family, so I’m just getting into the job search process. I’m hoping to get a job where I can see the whole flow, from the back end to the front end, to the distribution of information, to the Cloud. I like seeing how all the pieces work together. In the MSD program, we learned in a development setting, but code production is fundamentally different. With development, you are only testing code, but in production, you might get a million requests so you have to scale things out so you can handle all the incoming requests. We learned how to set that up in our Cloud Computing classes.

CA: What are you looking for in a job?

Jeremy: I would like a remote job. I am location-specific with my hobbies because I’m into whitewater kayaking and the best spots are away from big cities where the tech jobs are. My family and I hope to go back to the tri-state area of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, where we are from, and where there’s a lot of white-water kayaking.

CA: What would you say to students who are applying for MSD?

Jeremy: MSD is set up to help you succeed. You can come here knowing that the faculty will do all they can to help, and then, with the team projects, your classmates work with you and everyone helps each other. It’s a great environment, very supportive, and set up for learning and moving forward.  It’s an investment year of your life, but in the end, it will be worth it.


Congratulations to Jeremy, who completed his courses and graduated from the Masters of Software Development program in August 2021. He started his new career as a JavaScript web developer at Capital Technology Group in Maryland on November 1, 2021. We wish him the best of luck on his next adventure in the world of IT!





MSD Professor Dr. Renuka

Dr. Renuka Mohanraj Feeling at Home on Master’s of Software Development Faculty

“I would tell students that MIU is a very happy place to live and study, and this program prepares them to get good jobs and create a better life.” ~ Dr. Renuka

By Christine Albers

Dr. Renuka Mohanraj emigrated from Southern India to join Maharishi International University (MIU) faculty in 2014. In March 2021 she won an industry award for research on wireless security and was honored as a Fellow of the Computer Science Research Council (FCSRC) for her important research on wireless sensor networks (WSN) data security. Let’s meet this brilliant and accomplished professor, who we are so fortunate to have on faculty for the Master’s of Software Development program (MSD), and the MS in Computer Science (ComPro). Learn why her students sing her praises with comments like this:

“Data structure was a crucial course and you made it enjoyable and easy. I love the way you teach and how organized and efficient you are. I appreciate the extra effort you put in to make sure all of us understand the concepts very well. You are the best professor I have had in this program. Best wishes and thank you and I deeply appreciate your hard work.”

CA: Congratulations on your award, Dr. Renuka. Can you tell us about your background?

Dr.  Renuka: I have my Ph.D. in Computer Science and a Master’s in Computer Applications.  I had 19 years of academic experience and worked for 12 years in other universities prior to joining the MIU faculty.

CA: What inspired you to join MIU?

Dr.  Renuka: In 2014, my husband was working in Tanzania and I had just completed my Ph.D. in India. We were looking for a place where our whole family could be together so he searched on Google for a university where we could work and live. When we found MIU we were attracted by the concept of Consciousness-based education. We liked the idea that the development of consciousness through meditation was a big part of the university. We thought that because everyone, the students, staff, and faculty all practice the TM technique, it would be a calm, quiet, and safe place for us to live as a family.

CA: What was it like for you, coming from India to a small-town environment in Iowa?  

MSD Professor Dr. Renuka and familyDr.  Renuka: For me, it wasn’t a complete cultural shift because the university follows Maharishi’s tradition. After meeting my colleagues and students, it felt like my home town very quickly, because many people are meditating and on a spiritual path in addition to a career path.

CA: What do you like best about living in the MIU community?

Dr.  Renuka: In this community, everyone is respectful and loving, and helpful to each other.  That is what’s so great about living here.  I remember arriving on campus as newcomers and everyone smiled at us and welcomed us. It made us feel safe to stay here because the people are so wonderful.

CA: Are you feeling any benefits from your TM practice?

Dr.  Renuka: It’s so wonderful. I have seen myself grow in self-confidence, clarity of mind, calmness, and much more energy.

CA: Do you think the MSD students are different from students you taught at previous universities?

Dr.  Renuka: The MSD students are different from other students because they want to learn as much as they can from the faculty. They have keen observation, and focus, and the determination to gain this knowledge. The MSD course is challenging and requires hard work, but TM gives them greater mental clarity and the energy to accomplish more. MIU is unique because the faculty has to keep up with the demand of the students to learn. This is very stimulating and enjoyable as a teacher.

CA: What do you think of the Block system?

Dr.  Renuka: The Block system is effective for helping students learn and retain knowledge because it’s much easier to go deeply into each subject when they take one course at a time. Students have class in the morning and a practicum in the afternoon.  During the practicum, they apply what they learned in the morning session so they get a complete understanding. The practicum provides an opportunity to solve the type of problems they would encounter in the workplace, which prepares them for their future careers in software development.

CA: I understand that computer science has been mostly male-dominated in the past. Do you think that women faculty and students are outnumbered by men at MIU?

Dr.  Renuka: When I came to MIU in 2014 I was the only woman in the Computer Science Department. MIU recruited me because they wanted more women to join the faculty. Now it is getting better. Many more female students enrolled in the MSD program in August, and there are more women in the department.

CA: Why do you feel it is important for the students to learn TM?

Dr.  Renuka: TM helps students have a balanced personality and reduces stress and anxiety. Because they have inner calm, they are more stable and better able to focus on their classes and learn the technologies. Because TM develops the students from the inside, it helps them be good citizens and creates better quality human beings.

CA: What would you like to say to students who are interested in joining the MSD program?

Dr.  Renuka: I would tell students that it’s a very happy place to live and study, and this program prepares them to get good jobs and create a better life. With their TM practice, they can easily face the challenges of the current market in the IT industry. The technologies may change, but with a clear mind and rested physiology, they can learn new technologies and be successful in the workplace.


Luwam Invites Women to Join the Master’s in Software Development Program

Meet Luwam Tesfamariam from Eritrea, who arrived in the USA in 2018. Learn how she went from working in customer service to becoming a competent JavaScript software developer and why she encourages more women to take advantage of MIU’s Master’s in Software Development (MSD) program.

By Christine Albers

CA: What was your driving force to come to the USA?

Luwam: In 2018 I was living and working in Dubai as a customer service agent but knew I could do better. My cousin lived in Dallas, Texas and she encouraged me to move to Dallas because there were more career opportunities in the USA.

CA: What was it like when you arrived in the USA?

Luwam-at-deskLuwam: I liked Dallas. Texas is a very welcoming state with many people from different countries. The weather is good and I stayed with my cousin for some months.  I worked in customer service, but all the time I was looking for ways to gain more education for a professional career.

CA: How did you hear about MIU?

Luwam: In Texas, there are lots of tech jobs, and I met several people who graduated from the Computer Professionals Program at MIU (ComPro), and the MIU Master’s in Software Development Program (MSD). They told me that MSD was a one-year program that didn’t require a background in computer science. They had good jobs in financial institutions and banks as software developers, so I thought, why not try this? I came from a completely different background, in psychology, with no experience in computer science, but I thought if they can do it, I can do it.

CA: Why did you choose this particular program?

Luwam: I looked at the curriculum and saw that the courses are specific to the demands of the market. With that kind of focus, I thought I could succeed if I worked hard on my studies. I decided to do it! And here I am.

CA: What was it like when you arrived in Fairfield?

Luwam: People were incredibly welcoming. The Resident Advisors and Admissions Representatives were wonderfully helpful in assisting me. They had smiles all over their faces. They have to meet lots of students in a few days and they might be tired or exhausted, but these people were always smiling. I asked them, how do they do it? They said it’s because we meditate. Being happy is part of them now.

CA: What did you think of Fairfield after living in Dallas?

Luwam: The first thing I noticed is that Fairfield, especially the MIU campus, is very quiet and peaceful. Dallas is a big, busy city with a large population, but Fairfield is small. Small is beautiful. I like that I can have some alone time, where I am not disturbed at all.

CA: As a former psychology major, how was the transition to software development? 

Luwam: It wasn’t easy at first. It was challenging, but not so difficult that it could not be done. Of course, I had to work hard, and I didn’t have lots of spare time.  I’m on the Accelerated Track (12 months) and it’s very busy because it’s just 12 months. We don’t take the foundational classes that students on the Standard Track (18-month program) take.

CA: What’s a typical MSD day like?

Luwam: Every month we have a new course, and every course has a project, something meaningful, that is similar to the work we would do at a real job. We attend class during the day, and then in the afternoon and evening, we work on an assignment that we have to submit that same night. Sometimes we work as individuals and often we work on teams, and it gives us a chance to get hands-on experience.  There are times when we lose our patience, but when we accomplish something, we are so happy. We get our energy back and are ready to strive for something more. When the next course starts, it may start out a little difficult, but we have the attitude that we are ready for more, and let’s go.



CA: I notice there are a lot fewer women than men on this program. Why do you think that is?

Luwam: I asked myself that same question, “Why are there fewer women compared to the men in the class?” My classmates and I discussed it, and I learned that computer science has been dominated by men for some time. But now it’s getting better. More women joined us at the February entry, so our dorm is fuller now. More companies are hiring women, which motivates women to join this program.

CA: What would you say to women who are interested in the program but are shy about applying?

 Luwam: I would say, please don’t hesitate and listen to what your heart truly tells you. Sometimes we ask for advice, but at the end of the day, our decisions should be based on our own pure feelings and thinking. Some women are intimidated because there are only a few in the program, but they should listen to themselves. If they are motivated and ready, they can’t lose anything. The program takes you from zero experience in software development to getting a great job. That’s what it does. All they need is motivation.

CA: Do you feel you are getting the knowledge you need to land that great job?

Luwam: Yes, because the knowledge base is very strong. The topics and selection of courses are crucial parts of software development. Of course, everything is important, but we are learning up-to-date technologies and the frameworks and libraries that companies use among their software development teams. I’m especially enjoying Angular development because there are many ways to use it. It’s a technique that is in demand right now and it’s the latest framework, so yes, we are up to date on the current knowledge.

CA: How do you feel about the faculty?  

Luwam: They know what they are doing and they are kind and helpful. It’s not easy to take someone without any prior experience and train them to be skilled developers. For example, when I look at the curriculum at the beginning of each course and see the final project, I think I’ll never be able to do it. But within 3 weeks of intense work, my classmates and I surprise ourselves because we learned it. We have to work hard, but the faculty members are good at training new people. They start slow, and they are always available to answer questions and want to help us succeed. Some even help us over the weekend and in the evening, which we appreciate so much!

CA: Has your Transcendental Meditation practice helped with your studies?

Luwam: TM was something I never heard of before.  It is a relaxation technique that brings my mind to a calm state so I can learn better and not be anxious. I really like the yoga asanas because they help me be more flexible after sitting at a computer for so many hours.

CA: What is the greatest benefit you’ve gained from the MSD program?

Luwam: In just one year, the MSD program has taught me how to become a competent software developer with a skill set that is in demand.

CA: That pretty much says it all, Luwam! What advice would you give specifically for women who are applying for the Masters in Software Development program?

Luwam: I would tell them that I understand if they are wavering, but they should just decide to come. I worried that I might not succeed. I was afraid I would suffer because it would be too much of a strain for something I couldn’t achieve. At the end of the day, I told myself, if you are willing to do your best, and have the motivation to put in the hard work, to be persistent and not give up, then you can do it. I would tell other women, you have to believe in yourself and the faculty here, who will help you.

CA: Is there anything else you would like to say, Luwam?

Luwam: I would like to thank all the MSD faculty at MIU for their dedication and for encouraging and pushing us to become better developers. We work very hard but we are so happy when we complete the final project for each course. I encourage more women to join this program so they can get a great job. I would tell anyone, “You can do it!”

Luwam is currently enrolled in the Masters of Software Development program and will begin applying for JavaScript web developer positions when her courses finish in August. We wish her the best of luck on her next adventure in the world of IT!