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Alexander Switzer ’18, second from the right (yellow shirt), took some time off this summer from his duties as an Admissions ambassador to let off some steam in the campus quad with some friends.

STEM Academy leads to major decision

08/26/15

When computer science major Alexander Switzer ’18 of Brooklyn, N.Y., first arrived on campus last fall, he wasn’t interested in interacting with anyone other than the friends he’d made at STEM Academy, which he’d attended just a few weeks earlier. But as his first semester went on, the shell he’d built around himself began to crack.

Originally enrolled with an “undeclared major,” Switzer said the Academy led him to select computer science as his major.

“Computer science has always really interested me, ever since I first started playing video games on my first PC,” he explained. “I chose to pursue a computer science degree because I can continue doing what I love to do and keep meeting new people with similar interests as mine.”

Now he and another student, Daniel Heinen ’18, are in the midst of forming a Cyber Security Club, where they teach other students how to protect themselves online, and introduce them to resources and tools to help them further their learning.

“The topic interests me because of how necessary it is for us in the future,” Switzer explained. “Our activities currently consist of having informal meetings where we discuss recent events that have to do with cyber security, and teaching people the terminology and methods used by hackers.”

(Switzer invites those interested in joining the Cyber Security Club to e-mail him at as5721@mcla.edu.)

Also a member of the Computer Society, Switzer said the position where he’s had the most impact on others is as a “Teach to Learn” mentor. As a mentor, he taught science to elementary school children as part of a National Science Foundation-endorsed program with MCLA, Williams College and local public schools.

This summer, he was back at MCLA – this time as an Admissions ambassador. “I could connect with prospective students that were in the same shoes as I was not so long ago,” Switzer said.

As an ambassador for the College, Switzer continued to interact with others. “It’s because of the STEM Academy that I decided to do all of these things on campus,” he said.

Switzer decided to attend MCLA after he and some other New York City high school students visited the campus on an overnight trip for prospective students.

“I had a great first impression. I learned about the STEM Academy program during the trip, which I applied for immediately after I got home,” he said. “There is such an intimate community built here that supports all kinds of creativity and ingenuity. I can contact all of my professors easily, and I’ve had classes with all of the computer science staff already.”

Switzer wants prospective students to know there’s plenty to do in the Berkshires. 

“There are multiple bowling alleys, an ice skating rink and a driving range/mini golf course –  all within 10 to 30 minutes, or less, by car – so there is always something you can do when you’re bored and looking for off-campus activities,” he explained. “On top of all this, there’s also a movie theatre, a lake, and several museums and galleries, including the incredible MASS MoCA – all within walking distance.

“I definitely recommend MCLA for people looking for a small, closely knit college community,” Switzer added. “The price is hard to beat for the quality of education and knowledge students gain here.”