Ashley Rolf – University of Missouri College of Engineering


Name
Ashley Rolf

Hometown
Millersville, MD

Why did you choose to attend Mizzou for the IT program?
I actually chose to attend Mizzou before deciding on going into the Information Technology degree. I’m from Maryland, but my grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and father graduated from Mizzou. Because of this legacy, I was enticed by the Heritage (Black and Gold) Scholarship to venture out of state. Originally, I was a voice and chemistry major, and although I loved them both, they just didn’t quite feel right and weren’t taking me in a direction that I wanted for a future career. My father double majored in computer and electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics during his time at Mizzou, but he now works in depth with computers and cyber security, and so does my older brother. So, there has ALWAYS been a push for me to go into the technical field. But, I would dig my heels in, grit my teeth and repeatedly tell them, “NO. NOT HAPPENING,” because I didn’t want to be stuck behind a computer screen writing lines and lines of code from sunrise until sunset.

However, one day I decided to look into Mizzou’s Information Technology program, and I was shocked. I expected to see lists of classes only involving operating systems, python coding, networking, and all the technical classes. But instead, what I saw were creative and multimedia courses like Audio Visual Design, Audio Engineering, Project and Team Management, 3D Modeling and Animation, Virtual Reality, and more! After my first class with IT Department Head, Brian Maurer, I absolutely fell head-over-heels in love with the IT program at Mizzou. I have also been attracted to artistry in varying forms (music, drawing, animation, theater, makeup). I see myself in an artistic and creative field, and Mizzou’s IT program offers that flexibility. I have been able to study photography, film, graphic design, all while learning the foundations of a hard STEM science. The Mizzou IT program is the perfect marriage of multimedia design and technical development and application; I have yet to see a college offer such a unique degree that caters to so many students interested in a technical—but also creative—degree. Mizzou Engineering has reimagined IT, and it has been the best choice of my life to be a part of this program and degree.

Tell us about your educational experiences.
Mizzou has offered a number of opportunities within the field, my absolute favorite being the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland the summer after my sophomore year. Again, headed up by Brian Maurer, this program took about 40 of us to Ireland for a month on an in-depth study of photography, filmmaking, and footage editing, all while applying a technological spin to it teaching us the functions of the professional grade cameras that we had the opportunity to work with (URSA Black Magic Pro, DSLR Cannon). As we were making and capturing art through technology, we were immersing ourselves in the Irish culture: visiting castles, cities, country sides, and everything in between. It was a last-minute impulse decision for me but hands down my favorite memory from Mizzou and of my life. Getting hands-on experience with filming and getting to work with professional actors from California, all while getting lost in your craft in the landscapes of Ireland with a group of students you’ve never met, but somehow end up being your family—you just can’t recreate that experience. It’s a once in a lifetime chance and opportunity, and the IT program just has it down.

Where will you work after graduation? How did the IT program prepare you?
Upon graduation, I hope to work in graphic design and multimedia development. Mizzou IT has taught me that I can use technology and art hand-in-hand to make a fulfilling career for myself. I’d love to further my studies in animation and 3D modeling after Mizzou with a graduate program as my ultimate dream is to work for Pixar Animation. At Mizzou, I have been given artistic and technical training and learning opportunities that no other school can match. At other universities, I would have needed to double major to get all the experience and opportunities that Mizzou packs into one here in their IT degree. I can market myself as an artist with a STEM background, which is an edge that not many students can offer from their degree. With that craft and unique skillset, I feel very confident entering the job market.

Did you have an internship or other opportunities during your time at Mizzou?
I held two internships during my time at Mizzou, neither were specifically through the University, but Mizzou’s IT program prepared me so well, that I find it relevant. I worked with NKrypt, an independent start-up tech company back home in Maryland. There I held the position of Multimedia Designer and Developer. I was able to utilize my graphic design skills from my Audio Visual Design courses, and I was also in charge of maintaining and writing for the company blog. Our purpose was to educate the general public on the benefits of incorporating smart technologies into our homes, making the idea more friendly and attainable to all demographics. I loved this internship! It really helped solidify my goals of pursuing graphic design/animation in my future career. The fact that Mizzou’s IT program is so supportive of its creatively artistic students is fantastic. It provides such an unparalleled opportunity for students of all kinds to come and explore the wonders of Information Technology.

I also was chosen to participate in the Disney College Program during the Spring 2020 semester, and sadly, this internship opportunity got canceled halfway through, due to the pandemic. But it was one of the best things I have ever had the chance to participate in. I was able to meet students from all over the world and make lifelong friends while being able to explore future career opportunities with Disney. It may seem unrelated to IT, but the fact that the IT program supported and welcomed my decision to take an internship unrelated to my major was so appreciated. Many schools wouldn’t give students the freedom to take advantage of such an opportunity. I was able to meet higher ups in the IT division at the Disney Parks and it truly broadened my horizons in terms of a more colorful college experience.

Would you recommend the IT program and if so, what would you tell prospective students about the program?
There’s nothing I’d recommend more than Mizzou’s IT program. Are you interested in computer programming and development? Go IT. Are you interested in art and film, but want a basis in a STEM major? Go IT. Are you wanting to go into business, but want the technology background? Go IT. This is one of the most, if not THE most versatile and welcoming programs on campus. We encourage you to dive in and explore. We welcome making mistakes and having uncertainty because what college student doesn’t? The only way to find the degree that’s “right for you” is to simply immerse yourself, and learn from your mistakes and uncertainty—the Mizzou IT department takes away the stress and makes exploring a new field fun! Not only do we meet a wide range of interests in technology, science, and art, but we offer so many opportunities inside and outside the school itself.  Whether abroad or state-side it’s an adventure! You name it, we have it. It feels more like I am pursuing my passions than a degree. And that’s what Mizzou IT is to me.



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