Watching former students’ career paths unfold as they excel beyond college is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator. That’s what drives Dr. Scott Heggen’s passion for teaching at Berea College. His enthusiasm for students’ life-long success is contagious, as is his excitement about plans to invest in our students with two transformational buildings that will position them to become cutting-edge leaders in technology fields. The first building is the future home of Heggen’s department, Computer Science.
“A hallmark of computer science is that it is constantly changing,” Heggen said. “Our students need state-of-the-art facilities to learn, and to have lab experiences in a space that mirrors the future.” Heggen, Associate Professor of Computer Science, specializes in software engineering education, networking, and embedded systems. When he started at Berea in 2014, he created the Student Software Developers Program, which allows students to develop real-world applications that solve business needs for departments on campus. Students learn software engineering best practices in real-time by leveraging departments as customers.
The program’s impact has been transformational, and Heggen has seen students transfer their skills to successful careers that allow for social mobility.
“The students tell the story of the success of the Computer Science program,” Heggen said, “and our department works with great intentionality to serve students from a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences.”
Heggen’s main goal is to identify students who have potential, but who have limited experience in computer science due to the digital divide that leaves people in underserved areas behind. Whether they grew up in Nepal or in Central Appalachia, Berea College graduates are standouts in the industry.
Citing the example of a Berea alumnus who didn’t have computer access in his home and quickly taught himself to type after arriving at Berea College, Heggen noted that this former student is now a software engineer for Red Hat. He added that another Berea alumna had limited computer access growing up in Nepal and now works at Bank of America “writing software for millions of people.”
Heggen eagerly anticipates the greater impact Berea College students will achieve as the college launches a campaign to support two future-focused buildings, noting that “the new buildings will meet the need for an ever-evolving space and a curriculum that keeps pace and stays ahead of changes within the industry and discipline of computer science.”