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GUA Alumni: Teddy Kelly

My name is Teddy Kelly, I am originally from Chevy Chase, Maryland. I am a student at the University of Maryland studying Business Management of Information Systems.

What originally drove me to do business was my grandfather who was himself a successful entrepreneur. The University of Maryland had a wonderful business program that I was grateful to get accepted into, and I have spent the majority of my studies devoted to learning as much as I can about the subject. My other interests include computer science, of which I have taken several courses to get a better understanding of how programming languages work and what they can be used for. The area of computer science is rapidly expanding and the growing field of AI means that everyone will soon need to know the basics of programming and how and why computers behave the way they do

The GUA asked Teddy a few questions about student life and his aspirations...

What is it like to be an undergraduate student right now? Are there any trends or challenges in academia that have particularly impacted your experience?

One thing that is an emerging trend in the field of academics is the threat of AI and how schools across the globe are altering their syllabuses in accordance with this new technology. Currently, every course at the University of Maryland needs to address what is an acceptable amount of Artificial Intelligence that can be used as a tool and when does it go from a tool to outright cheating. This is especially problematic in the field of computer science, where there are a limited number of tools for teachers to use to figure out if code is assisted by AI tools or just a student. As a student, AI is both extremely exciting and scary seeing how quickly it is developing and becoming used much more mainstream. Business especially needs to adapt to using and understanding AI, and despite reassurance from professors, it seems as though many jobs and businesses may suffer or grow under AI.

Reflecting on your time in academia so far, what have been some of the most significant challenges you faced, and how did they contribute to your personal and academic growth?

I was taking several difficult courses at once and ended up doing pretty terribly on one in particular to the point I had to retake the course for credit. Having to retake a course was a difficult but necessary decision and it helped me to appreciate that I needed to devote more time for things like office hours and reviewing feedback that I did not do when I originally took the course. I ended up passing the class with flying colors the second time around and learned how important applying yourself and using all the resources at your disposal is to academic success. I also learned that nothing was guaranteed, and doing well one semester will not ensure that the next semester will go just as well.

Could you highlight a particular academic achievement or moment that stands out as your favourite or most memorable so far?

I had a great academic year in my second year that really showed some promise and improvement after a less-than-stellar second semester freshman year. Freshman year I had faced a lot of academic challenges, as well as some health concerns that meant my ending GPA was not where I wanted it to be. To make it into the abroad program at all I would need to raise my GPA the first semester second year or risk not being able to travel and have the amazing opportunity to see another side of the world. Luckily I greatly improved my academic standings and by winter break I had a GPA that I was proud of which led me to be accepted into the abroad program. That was definitely a huge achievement that I am tremendously proud of.

How do you envision your academic achievements contributing to your community or the broader world?

I hope that after getting out of college I can look to get a job in something like data analytics or something else related to my major. I want the work I do to be recognised and appreciated by not only my colleagues but also the greater community. To have my name be recognised and my work acknowledged by others is a big goal of mine. The broader goal is to do something that will help people around the world or make a significant impact for the betterment of businesses across the globe. Managing information seems like a dull and largely unseen job that I hope will get more recognition as the vital part of the business function that it is.

Many students have diverse interests. How have you managed to integrate your academic pursuits with your other passions or interests? Do you believe this is an important aspect of your future work/life self?

I have found ways to implement some of my academic pursuits into things outside of school, such as many of the clubs and organisations I am involved in. In the robotics club at UMD I was able to use some of my business skills to conduct communications with local businesses to get offers and deals for students to boost attention towards the club. In addition, working with some friends I was able to share and improve on some coding techniques that helped me to do things like build a video game and generate social media content to attempt to make a small profit. I think that interests like these are important to have and develop, as they may be useful for a future career path or be attractive skills to potential employers.

Can you share the role mentors or advisors play in your academic journey? Any specific advice from them that profoundly influenced you?

One person I would consider a mentor was my sister. My sister was the first of my siblings to get into college and paved the way for me to start thinking about where I wanted to go before ultimately deciding on Maryland. She helped show me what a good school-to-personal life balance might look like, and she was the one person I knew I could contact whenever I needed advice on something. She helped put me in contact with some of the upperclassmen at Maryland that were able to elevate my early experiences there and have an overall more positive experience in my academic journey. Without my sister as my mentor I may not have gotten the necessary advice and encouragement I needed to get through those daunting first weeks of college

Maintaining a balance between academics and well-being is crucial. How have you managed stress and found time for self-care throughout your studies?

To manage stress I found something that I loved doing and made sure that I was able to do that thing once a day or once a week at least. I loved rock climbing, so I made sure to find time to climb and take a break from whatever I was working on to clear my head. This was the same for going to the gym, walking, and watching shows and movies. More recently my roommates and I started watching movies together every Thursday after we finished all of our work for the weekend. This encouraged me to get my work done ahead of the weekend and rewarded myself with some stress-free time with friends. Make sure to stay in constant contact with your family as well, as sometimes I found that I was a lot less stressed after talking to my siblings or my parents about what I was worried about.

Given the diverse nature of education today, how has exposure to different cultures and perspectives influenced your academic and personal development?

Education, and especially abroad, opens up new perspectives of different cultures and world views that are drastically different from what I have experienced in the past. In terms of academics, I have never had a position that was not customer service or working directly with a customer rather than through a website or program. This change was a welcome one in my personal journey and career path, and definitely helped me to learn more about the job market and how to best handle life outside of a school environment. The adjustment from college to living outside the safety net that school affords can be unsettling, but luckily I feel as though my education and experiences throughout college have adequately prepared me to leave school.

What motivated you to intern abroad, and how do you hope this experience will influence your future self?

My sister studied abroad and really enjoyed it and recommended it to me. I thought that going during the school year might have a bigger impact on my academics than if I did something over the summer, so I took the opportunity to intern abroad. I hope that this experience will give me the ability to learn more about what a job might look like in the future and how to manage my time and money properly outside of school. This will also help my future self to have some work experience on my resume that will be appealing for companies to see.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals, both academically and personally, what is important to you post-graduation?

I am going to try to get my Masters Degree also at the University of Maryland, after which I want to be able to travel post-graduation to see the world before I try to find a job back in the U.S. I hope to view and experience cultures outside of where I was born and raised and when I return I want to find a job with a mission that aligns with my motivations. I hope that my work will be recognised to some degree and that I will make a lasting impact on the people around me.

For students aspiring to make the most out of their undergraduate years, what advice do you have based on your own experiences?

If you want to enjoy your undergraduate experience as much as possible I would recommend meeting as many people as you can. One of my best friends came from sitting next to a random student in an economics class and became someone who is a vital part of my college experience. If you feel as though you aren’t connecting with anyone at your school, join clubs and activities where you have at least one common interest with everyone else in the organization. Don’t be afraid if you don’t find your best friends within the first month or even first year, I didn’t click with any group in particular until my second year of college so don’t panic if you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t immediately find a group you enjoy being around.

Reflecting on your academic journey so far, how has this experience influenced your perspective on your education and future career aspirations?

My academic journey has led me into various different fields of study and I have met very unique people who have given me a wider perspective of the world. These people have helped guide what I got out of my education and what I will look forward to as a future career. After learning about every different aspect of business I know that a career in the information systems industry is right for me. Learning more about new technologies and how to implement them for businesses to grow is something I have only grown more interested in as I progress in school. A future career might look something like a data analyst or a manager of information systems at a consulting firm. These jobs will allow me to use what I have learned in school, interact with like-minded individuals, and support me financially.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers – perhaps a piece of wisdom or a lesson you've learned during your academic journey?

Instructors/professors are there to help you learn, they’ve built their own career on helping people move forward academically. If you think that you are not moving forward academically you need to talk to your instructor to understand what is going wrong and what can be changed. Don’t let a big class size or an intimidating professor prevent you from having that conversation.