LEED Scholars Program
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Meet Current LEED Scholars
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Why did you pick UW-Madison?
I was accepted to UW-Madison, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Stanford, Oxford and MIT. I chose UW-Madison for a number of reasons. First, I thought it offered the most academic and developmental opportunities, and that undergraduate research would be more accessible here. Additionally, during the summer before my junior year of high school, I did the Engineering Summer Program (ESP) and spent six weeks living in the dorms. Before ESP, I had always thought of Madison as too close to home, but I realized it was far enough from Milwaukee that I could be independent, and as cool and exciting a city as any faraway place. Additionally, my ESP counselors really made an impression on me. They were high-achieving students, but also very mature and confident. When I compared them to students at other schools I visited, I realized that when I left college, I’d most want to be like the students at UW-Madison. I visited some of the campuses, and of them, Madison is the only one that really felt like home. We have an amazing campus in an amazing city. Besides, where else could you get a lake view from your dorm room?
What extracurricular activities do you enjoy?
I recently started undergraduate research with Professor Tracey Holloway at SAGE (Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment). I’m learning to make charts of satellite data and learning a lot about atmospheric science so I can help with research.
I also joined the Robotics Team, where I will be helping with programming. I’m planning on joining Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. I’ve already done a bit of volunteering with them and I hope to do a lot of STEM outreach with them in the future.
What resources on campus have helped you transition into campus and academic life?
I’ve always struggled socially more than academically, so I expected the main challenge to college to be making friends. Welcome Week helped a lot in transitioning to college. Almost everyone on campus during the first week is new, and there are tons of events scheduled so you can meet new people. Because of this, I met my friend group within the first couple weeks on campus, and that helped the transition a lot. Now that I’m joining clubs, I’m meeting even more people, many of them in different years of school. Although it was the summer before my junior year of high school, ESP helped a lot academically in transitioning to college. Because of ESP, I knew exactly what to expect and how to handle a college-level course. I also had a lot of insight into the majors and possible paths through college, and a lot of advice from my counselors. Since a lot of my friends from ESP went to UW-Madison, I also have their friendship and advice.
Milwaukee native Devin Lafford is an outstanding junior majoring in computer engineering. Devin’s path to computer engineering is rooted in experiences from his childhood. Prior to knowing about engineering, young Devin aspired to invent. He was especially fascinated by the intricacy of computer hardware after fixing his mother’s faulty computer. Further nurturing his passion for computers was his teacher at Rufus King High School who guided him to excel in a solo, summer computer science course.
Now on campus, Devin credits his success to his LEED mentor, who provided academic insight, and his mother, who instilled the values of self-confidence and resilience. These skills guided him to persevere through his rigorous first semester. Devin benefited from resources provided by the LEED Scholars Program, such as tutoring, supplemental instruction and office hours. In addition to his academic achievements, Devin has worked with the Simulation-Based Engineering Lab (SBEL) and has held a software engineering internship with Cardiac Science, a company specializing in the design of defibrillators. When asked his best advice for new students, he noted that the cliché “go to office hours” might be overlooked, but he could not emphasize its importance enough.
Reflecting on why some groups are underrepresented in engineering and science, Devin mused that the biggest challenge is the limited exposure of the possibilities in STEM careers in these communities. He identified his early exposure to Computer Engineering as a career path as what gave him passion to pursue the field. As such, Devin is always enthusiastic to share his academic experiences to the community around him, with the goal of igniting a similar interest.