Meet Penn State Behrend Graduate Cara Harben

Cara Harben

Cara Harben

Credit: Contributed Photo

Major: Software Engineering

Hometown: Attica, Ohio

On choosing Behrend: Two of the most important items on my college checklist were small class sizes and hands-on engagement. Behrend's intimate classroom settings were instrumental in allowing me to feel connected to the course material and the faculty here. My labs have been more challenging than I ever imagined, too, but they have taught me vital skills that have left me better prepared for my career.

On switching gears: I always planned to go into medicine, but in my senior year of high school, I took a web design course and fell in love with programming. It completely flipped my plans upside down. I attended Google's Computer Science Summer Institute before college, and it solidified my decision. I couldn't be happier now.

Proudest accomplishments at Behrend: I'm fortunate to have had internships for the last three years at TechnipFMC in Erie and Northrop Grumman's Space Systems division in California. As a member of Northrop's intern council, I was able to pitch and start a support program for interns at my location to prevent discrimination in the workplace. That was my proudest moment during my academic career.

Campus involvement: I am a member of Behrend Engineering Ambassadors, Phi Sigma Rho (engineering/science sorority), and the Cultural Cooking Club (CCC). We just made dumplings for CCC, and while the ones I made were not aesthetically pleasing, they sure were delicious.

Java master: Being in this field has taught me the necessity of experimenting with different coffee brewing methods. I'm told I make a mean cup of coffee with my AeroPress, or so my partner says.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: My hometown is a village of fewer than 800 people in the middle of nowhere.

Take a moment to enjoy life: If you move too fast from one thing to the next, you’ll miss out on a lot of beautiful experiences. I like to stop and smell the flowers sometimes, whether by watching the sunset from the Burke parking garage, looking for the International Space Station on good nights, or cooking a good meal after a rough day. That's what makes me happy.

Adventures await: I am ecstatic to have a clean slate to work with once my partner and I move to Colorado Springs this year. I'd really like to spend some time learning a new language and getting back into playing guitar. We'd also like to try backpacking!

Cultivating the next generation of engineers: Computer science outreach is what inspired me to become a software engineer. Currently, I am in the process of designing a program for a local middle school that teaches kids how to create their own Space Invaders style game in Scratch, which teaches kids to program through drag-and-drop code!

Advice for first-year students: Go to the career fair in your first year. Worst case scenario, you come out of it better equipped to face the next fair. In my case, I never thought I'd have an internship after my first year, but I did!

Parting thanks: My professors have been wonderful throughout my time here, and I'm grateful to them for their help, advice, and patience, especially Dr. Wen-Li Wang, associate professor of computer science and software engineering; Dr. Amed Sammoud, lecturer in computer science and software engineering; and Dr. Abdallah S. Abdallah Abousheaisha, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Cara will be joining Progressive Insurance in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a software developer.