Single mom to get award at WSUV commencement

She will get degree in computer science, head to Intel job

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter

Published:

 

o What: WSU Vancouver graduation. Covered, outdoor venue; umbrellas are not allowed. Concessions will be available. Accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired guests will be available. Golf cart and wheelchair service will be provided to guests who need assistance.

o When: 1 p.m. Saturday. Parking and gates open at 11 a.m.; seating opens at 11:30 a.m.

o Where: Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 N.E. Delfel Road.

o Cost: Free, public event. No tickets required.

o Speaker: Shavenor Winters, president of Associated Students of WSU Vancouver.

o Information: WSUV commencement website.

o Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence: Thomas M. Tripp, professor of management and expert on workplace conflict.

o Chancellor's Award for Service to WSU Vancouver: Twyla Barnes, superintendent and chief executive officer of Educational Service District 112.

o Chancellor's Award for Student Achievement: Helena Lucia, 2014 graduate in computer science.

o Students' Award for Teaching Excellence: Dene Grigar, associate professor and director of the Creative Media and Digital Culture program.

915 total graduates

792 bachelor's candidates

118 master's candidates

5 doctoral candidates.

May 10 is 25th anniversary of legislative act that established WSU's urban campuses in Vancouver, Spokane and Tri-Cities.

Growing up, Helena Lucia didn’t realize a science technology career was an option for a woman.

But on Saturday Lucia, 38, will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Washington State University Vancouver. She’s one of 915 students who will participate at WSU Vancouver’s commencement exercises.

Lucia is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement in recognition of her love of learning, overcoming barriers in pursuit of academic goals, leadership potential and involvement in campus life.

o What: WSU Vancouver graduation. Covered, outdoor venue; umbrellas are not allowed. Concessions will be available. Accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired guests will be available. Golf cart and wheelchair service will be provided to guests who need assistance.

o When: 1 p.m. Saturday. Parking and gates open at 11 a.m.; seating opens at 11:30 a.m.

o Where: Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 N.E. Delfel Road.

o Cost: Free, public event. No tickets required.

o Speaker: Shavenor Winters, president of Associated Students of WSU Vancouver.

o Information: WSUV commencement website.

o Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence: Thomas M. Tripp, professor of management and expert on workplace conflict.

o Chancellor’s Award for Service to WSU Vancouver: Twyla Barnes, superintendent and chief executive officer of Educational Service District 112.

o Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement: Helena Lucia, 2014 graduate in computer science.

o Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence: Dene Grigar, associate professor and director of the Creative Media and Digital Culture program.

As a girl, Lucia said, she didn’t know any women who had graduated from college or worked in science or technology fields. She married at 19, had four children by 25 and was divorced at 33. With only a high school education, how could she support a family of five?

She had been a good student in school. In junior high, she was on a competitive math team; in high school she had taken some college courses through Running Start.

915 total graduates

792 bachelor’s candidates

118 master’s candidates

5 doctoral candidates.

May 10 is 25th anniversary of legislative act that established WSU’s urban campuses in Vancouver, Spokane and Tri-Cities.

She enrolled at WSU Vancouver, pursued a computer science degree and prepared to enter a male-dominated field. At WSU Vancouver, only 15 percent of computer science majors are female. Those statistics also reflect the percentage of female computer programmers statewide.

“My dad worked in technology,” she said. “When I was growing up, I found I had a natural aptitude for computers.”

During her freshman year, she interned at Google’s Summer of Code, an opportunity to work on an open source project, and was mentored by David Chiu at WSU Vancouver. He has remained Lucia’s mentor.

“I don’t think I could have made it without him,” Lucia said. “He’s very encouraging. He pushes me to do things I don’t necessarily think I can do.”

But she pushed through the hard stuff and kept going.

Along the way, she helped other women build their careers. Lucia started an Association for Computing Machinery for Women chapter on campus, tutored computer science courses and worked as a lab assistant. She taught programming workshops at MESA, or Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, and at an Advancing Women’s Careers in Technology event in Portland.

In addition to her full-time studies and a job, she is a mom to her kids, ages 12, 15, 17 and 18. Although many of her younger peers juggled school and a job, Lucia also made meals, packed lunches and oversaw her kids’ homework.

“I can’t tell you how many tests I’ve studied for at volleyball games or cheer banquets,” Lucia said.

Even so, she’s maintained a 3.7 grade point average in her computer science classes.

“When the kids have needs and I have an assignment due at midnight, I’ve had to find a way to balance everything,” she said. “I’ve told my kids, ‘We’re a team. We need to do this together.’?”

Lucia’s aptitude for math and science is shared by her children. Her oldest daughter, Kelli Scheuble, 18, will graduate from Heritage High School in June and hopes to pursue a nursing degree at the University of Washington. Jana, 16, will take Running Start classes in the fall. Son Tyler, 15, is on the school robotics team. When her youngest, Kayla, now 12, was in fourth grade, she scored highest in her school in a standardized math test.

A savvy shopper used to stretching dollars, Lucia’s checking account balance and prospects soon will improve.

She’s the first alumnus from the campus’ School of Engineering and Computer Science to receive job offers from two of the most respected companies in the field — Intel and IBM. She is also the first WSU Vancouver undergraduate to be offered a place in a 10-person training program for future leaders, Intel’s IT Rotation Program.

In June, she’ll begin working as an application developer at Intel in Hillsboro, Ore. Her $71,300 starting salary will be boosted with an $8,000 bonus and a $5,000 signing bonus.

She said she’s looking forward to moving her family into a larger apartment with a dining room so she and her kids can eat together.

Lucia encourages girls and women to “seek out people who can mentor you, who will encourage you. Their support will be invaluable. If you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it. Seek out conferences and other opportunities to be with like-minded women. That gives you a lot of strength.”

With that, she turned her attention to her remaining final test.

“There were times when I wondered if I could do it, but I never considered giving up,” Lucia said.