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Computer Science Freshman Alex Villier Finds His Community at LSU

by Jeremy Harper
5.22.2017

Alex Villier says he left opportunities on the table as a high-school student in St. Louis, but he’s not making that mistake as a freshman LSU computer science major. He has fully embraced campus life, taking advantage of the many possibilities for personal and professional development both in and out of the classroom.

“I really regretted not being involved in high school, so I was looking to get involved at LSU,” Villier says. “There are just all these opportunities, so I wanted to take advantage of as many as I could, and it just made the experience unimaginable. I could have never guessed the people I would meet and the relationships I would make over the past year. I’ve got more memories and more friends than throughout the rest of my life combined, honestly.”

Since he set foot on the LSU campus, Villier has worked diligently to develop his programming skills through computer science courses and personal studies outside of class, as well as through a software development project with one of his professors. He has also taken a leadership role in his residence hall, participated in computer science events and worked to become a leader in a campus religious organization.

A Good Fit

As a junior in high school, Villier says, he was interested in architecture, but soon realized it wasn’t for him after taking a class on the subject. Later he tried coding on a recommendation from a friend and fell in love with it almost immediately.

Villier attended a computer camp over the summer and took a computer science class his senior year, where he learned the basics of Python, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It was quickly apparent that programming was a good fit for his personality and analytical method of thinking.

“I’m a very math-oriented person, a very algebraic thinker, so just the logic behind coding really appealed to me,” he says. “Once I started coding I was like ‘this really makes sense to me.’ ”

Villier says he particularly liked how quickly he could see the results of a program he had written, no matter how simple the code. “That was something that was so cool to me,” he says. “I really just fell in love with it and thought it was awesome and just thought this is what I want to do.”

Finding His Community

Villier says the biggest surprise when arrived on campus was how friendly and collaborative the community of computer science students was from the start. He found a group of fellow programming enthusiasts willing to work together to solve problems and eager to learn and grow as coders.

“I know I can talk to anyone in one of my classes or my labs if I’ve got a problem, and I know they’re going to help me,” he says.

Villier has embraced collaborative coding events such as the Women in Computer Science Game Jam, where he was able to work with fellow students he didn’t know before the event. He has also become an active member in Chi Alpha Campus Ministry and plans to take on a leadership role in the organization as he enters his second year at LSU. And he has served as president of the community council for his campus residence hall, coordinating events and working to improve the experience of fellow students.

“That’s been an awesome experience,” he says. “I got some great leadership experience.”

Building an App

Despite his expanding portfolio of extracurricular activities, Villier has maintained his focus and enthusiasm toward the field of computer science, honing his skills every chance he gets.

“I work on my own projects when I have my own time because I’m so excited about computer science,” he says. “I’m so enthusiastic about it that I just want to have as much experience and be working on it as much I can.”

One of those projects is the development of a software application with assistant professor Anas “Nash” Mahmoud. The stealth project, which Villier says he can’t explain in detail yet, is aimed at improving the experience of LSU students. “It will make the process of being a student a little easier, a little bit more efficient,” Villier says. “I think it’s going to be really cool when we get this project done.”

The project has afforded Villier the opportunity to gain valuable real-world development experience, particularly because Mahmoud has taken a collaborative approach as they have worked on the application.

“It’s not just like a professor-student relationship. We’re almost like co-workers on this project,” he says. “I’m learning things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise until a couple of years down the road.”

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