Mei-Ying Croddy’s interest in coding was sparked by her first gaming console, a PlayStation 2, introduced to her by her mom who was a video game concept artist. Croddy found free, online programming websites to learn how to create similar, interactive gameplay.
When she arrived at Cal Poly Pomona as a computer science student, she looked for opportunities that could help her pay for her education and get a head start on her career. She found the answer through the Avanade STEM Scholarship program.
“I really needed to find a way to step into my career and my mentor helped with my resume,” Croddy said. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot for other opportunities, even tangential to game development.”
Through her mentor in Avanade, a leading digital innovator on the Microsoft platform, Croddy earned a web development internship at Activision, a major video game publisher.
Croddy was one of seven Cal Poly Pomona Avanade STEM Scholars selected during the 2018-19 school year, each earning scholarships of up to $15,000 with opportunities to attend career workshops and networking events.
The scholarship is open to computer information systems students in the College of Business Administration and computer science students in the College of Science. The program, implemented at a handful universities throughout the world, was realized through a collaboration between Avanade and Cal Poly Pomona through the Mitchell C. Hill Center for Digital Innovation.
“I was struggling paying for college, and the scholarship took off a lot of pressure at school. When you have to worry about your finances it makes school much more difficult,” Croddy said. “It was the first time my family and I didn’t have to take out any loans, and I’m very proud of that. Now, I have more time – next year I don’t have to find a side job, and I can go to networking events and conferences.”
This summer, Avanade selected Cal Poly Pomona and the Mitchell C. Hill Center to host an inaugural, week-long FUEL Conference, providing leadership workshops, professional panel discussions and teamwork opportunities to 110 Avanade STEM Scholars and Avanade summer interns from nearly 50 universities across the nation.
Isabel DeLaPaz, a computer science junior, felt the pressure to excel academically and make her parents proud, especially since she is one of the first in her family to attend college. Because her parents work in the farm and service industries, they are not familiar with the U.S. education system.
Since being named an Avanade Scholar, DeLaPaz balances her academic life with being a part of a community, inspiring her to become a braver person and earning an internship at Avanade.
“I’m really grateful for the FUEL conference because I met so many amazing people throughout the entire week – it’s helping me push myself out there and making me into a more open person,” said DeLaPaz, a solutions development analyst intern. “I know I can do fine in my academics, but I know that it’s not enough to work in the industry because you need to work on so many skills outside of that.”
Part of the conference included a panel discussion that featured alumna Patricia Benoit (’90, computer information science; ’07, MBA), who is the senior manager of risk and compliance at Southern California Edison, and Erik Rolland, dean of the Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Business Administration.
Adjunct Professor Laura Pohopien (’92, management and human resources) led a FUEL edition of “Chopped” in which students created an appetizer using a basket of secret ingredients to spark innovative thinking. Majed Muhtaseb, a Cal Poly Pomona finance professor, spoke about reporting ethics and the implications of fraud in tech industries.
Alumnus Mitchell Hill (’80, economics) founded Avanade in 2000 and passed away in 2013. Avanade offers support for the Mitchell C. Hill Memorial Endowment, which funds the Mitchell C. Hill Center for Digital Innovation and supports student scholarships and education in the fields of enterprise mobility, cloud-based infrastructure, managed services and virtualizations.
Cal Poly Pomona was the first university Avanade partnered with to establish a scholarship and scholars program for female students to be engaged in STEM majors.
“We have a very special partnership with Cal Poly Pomona – it’s where our Avanade STEM Scholarship first started and we share a common goal in investing in these students,” said Heba Ramzy, Avanade global citizenship senior director. “The FUEL conference allowed students to collaborate and combine essential skills with the latest thinking around technology and digital innovation, while coming up with solutions that address some of the pressing challenges we are facing today – this will prepare students for the work of tomorrow.”
Alumna Nandita Chauhan (’18, computer science) was part of the first cohort of Avanade Scholars who graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, but she had difficulty finding work due to visa limitations. She explained her situation to Ramzy, who helped to create an opportunity for Avanade to offer opportunities to their scholars, no matter their situation. A week after that conversation, Chauhan was scheduled for an interview and currently works in the company’s software engineering department.
“Where I am today is because of Cal Poly Pomona and Avanade together, especially in terms of the opportunities given by faculty and the amount I learned from my professors,” Chauhan said. “There’s a strong sense of community that we all have, and everyone is willing to help each other.”