Web header of headshot of Emerson Spradling
Creative Computing
Semmes Scholar now at Microsoft, solving human problems
Sunday, June 12, 2022

Emerson Spradling ’21, a computer science major from Austin, Texas, could have gone to school anywhere to learn how to program and code.

But he came to Trinity because he wanted to build a better version of himself in a residential, liberal arts environment—which means not having to give up any of his diverse interests. This well-rounded experience, Emerson says, was a key factor in him landing a big-time job as a software development engineer at Amazon.

“I love creating applications that solve real-world problems, especially when I can see the direct impact,” Emerson says of his work with software.

At Trinity, Emerson says he found opportunities to reach beyond his computer science (CS) major. “When I looked at Trinity, their Pathways curriculum really spoke to me. I would be able to branch out and not have my experience focus solely on CS,” he says. “My mindset was that a more well-rounded education would provide long-lasting benefits.”

“Now that I’m in the professional world, I still find myself constantly using the liberal arts skills that I learned at Trinity,” Emerson says. For example, “I didn’t think that, as a CS major, I’d be writing in my day-to-day. But in reality, I spend a significant amount of time explaining complex code design. Communication and writing skills are huge.”

That well-rounded experience meant Emerson was able to pursue music—his other passion—while at Trinity, too. He joined Trinity’s handbell ensemble, played the french horn in the orchestra and band, and even found time to explore other aspects of music, such as taking a class that allowed him to regularly attend performances at the San Antonio Symphony. This drive to explore came full circle for his own CS major, as he gained the confidence to venture into new, niche subjects, such as the more specialized realm of big data and machine learning.

Emerson also points to his positive experience with Residential Life as vital to his success. “As an RA [resident assistant], I also developed interpersonal skills that are so crucial to the way I communicate,” Emerson says. “I loved Res Life at Trinity.”

Branching out and collecting well-rounded skills wasn’t an optional update for Spradling 2.0—it was essential to creating the version of himself that landed the Amazon job.

“Big data and machine learning isn’t in the general CS curriculum. It’s something you seek out because you’re really interested in it,” Emerson says. “So, I branched out and I took (classes on those subjects). I think I learned a lot, and it’s influenced the way I approach problems at Amazon.”

Jeremiah Gerlach is the brand journalist for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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