2018 – Present
Firsts of many firstsby Neha Keshan
Looking back at my RPI journey that started in Fall’18, I feel gratified to have lived and experienced many firsts. From my first introduction to RPI’s beautiful culture and community to my first step of the pedagogical journey with RPI’s Computer Science department in Fall’23. From understanding how doctorate study is more personalized and complicated than it seems to making marginalized US STEM graduate students as my thesis domain. From representing the graduate students as a graduate senator to helping build a sense of community within us as a graduate council president during the pandemic. From working with the admin to mitigate the ill effects of the pandemic on graduate research and overall development to working with the computer science department admin to establish the computer science graduate council to elevate the community sense. From representing graduate students in the known first ever board of trustees meet with graduate students to being one of the first four graduate students to participate in the scholarship dinner to representing graduate students in the next provost selection student team. From getting introduced to the world of semantics to defending my thesis in the same domain by developing a new evaluation methodology and demonstrating it through interdomain research in social science and computer science. From receiving the best PhD. Symposium Presentation Award to receive the best research paper award. From getting my journal paper published to becoming a journal reviewer for a well-established journal within the community. From being a volunteer at the conference to becoming a member of the organizing committee of the conference. From organizing the graduate research symposium during the pandemic at RPI to creating new tracks in conference to bridge the gap between industry and academia in the semantic research community. From the virtual presentation to the 3-minute thesis in-person presentation on returning from the pandemic. From working with a team of 14 staff members while connecting with 70 lab students as the head TA of the Computer Organization course to working with a team of 30 staff members for a class of 200+ students as a lecturer in the Data Structure course. From my internship with IBM as an IBM AI Horizon extern to my full-time job as a faculty at the RPI’s computer science department. From getting a 4.0 GPA in all computer science courses to receiving the founders award of excellence in Fall’22. Being the first of almost 50 graduate students of my adviser to have received both the University’s and the Computer Science Departmental graduating student awards while being the graduate speaker for the commencement was the cherry on top. Most importantly, from getting introduced to the beautiful community of Rensselaer in 2018 to addressing the community as a graduate speaker in my first and only convocation in May’23, that too in the presence of my mother and sister. This was indeed the most important first that will remain with me throughout my life, as it was the epitome of my family’s resilience, persistence, and the celebration of small victories along the way. With each of these firsts, the sense of gratitude has just become stronger. The thought of not giving up during the hard times and working towards finding that light of hope throughout this journey has helped me become who I am today. I feel blessed to have met such wonderful people across my years at RPI through all the downs and ups of this roller-coaster ride. I am glad that I have been able to add to this lovely RPI community in my own ways who has played a big role in my life. So, here’s to many more firsts at RPI.