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Nhi Stephanie Le
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Nhi (Stephanie) Le

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Henry Foss High School, Tacoma, Wash.

Hometown: Danang, Vietnam

Majors: Computer science, data analytics – data science

Activities: Multicultural Programming Board, Vibrant Augie Tech Fest, al-Khwarizmi Honors Society (computer science), Google Developer Students Club, Google Developer Group, Vike App Developer Board, CyberAugie Club

Internships: Augustana's EDGE Center, Google Cloud Student Innovator, Augustana NLP (Natural Language Processing) Lab in social science, Vike App Developer Board, Google Developer Group in Southeast Asia

Post-grad plans: Pursue tech career opportunities in Chicago metro area and the U.S.

Why Augustana?

During decision week, Liz Nino from admissions told me about the opportunities, Augie Choice and financial aid from Augustana. I also talked to alumni who said the small class sizes allow you to really get to know your community and develop a strong sense of belonging. 

Interestingly, my high school friend and I had been discussing Augie's great potential to commit together. The combination of opportunities, community and making that choice with a friend made Augustana feel like a right fit.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

Looking back, Augustana pushed me to grow beyond my comfort zone in the best way. Being part of a close-knit, supportive community motivated me. Augie let me embrace the journey of learning, unlearning and relearning. 

When I arrived, I wanted to be a landscape architect, but I discovered a knack for tech. Who knew I'd graduate with majors in computer science and data science? Augie opened my eyes to new paths and helped me find talents I didn't know I had.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

My parents have always been my biggest motivators, pushing me to be my best. Their constant support and belief in me have made all the difference. 

Meeting Professor Diane Mueller was a turning point. Even without a technical background, her passion for teaching and getting more women into tech inspired me to make the switch. She saw potential in me that I didn't know I had. 

I'm also very grateful to Dr. Forrest Stonedahl, an incredibly supportive professor. He always had my back, highlighted my strengths and trusted my process, even staying late after office hours to talk with me. His ambition pushed us to go beyond the classroom, which inspired me to organize the first Vibrant Augie Tech Fest in the Quad Cities. 

Ken Brill also deserves a huge thanks for trusting me with campus projects (Vibrant Augie, MPB, Vike ...) that boosted my confidence and leadership skills. 

Of course, I'm thankful for my friends who supported me every step of the way, keeping me motivated and always being there for me.

Peak experience?

Founding the Vibrant Augie Tech Fest was one of my most rewarding college experiences. As the first event showcasing students' talents in creating advanced tech-art products, it made me realize the lasting impact I could have on the Augie community. Working closely with amazing peers on this idea was incredibly fulfilling. 

Another standout experience was my J-term trip to Holden Village, Wash., where I formed close friendships with villagers living simply, sustainably and connected to nature.

What surprised you?

The people and the environment here. This supportive community has given me room to grow, but also tough challenges that showed me how bold I can be and how far I can go in different areas. 

My close relationships with professors, faculty and friends allowed me to understand them better and motivated me to contribute to improving and making this community even better.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice for a study trip to Holden Village in Washington during J-term. It was the best choice I could've made. Being surrounded by nature with no technology was so refreshing. I got to take a step back, think about my life's path so far and really connect with the people around me.

What will you miss the most?

I'll really miss the people who have created such valuable memories with me. It feels strange not to wander around campus, bump into friends and plan spontaneous hangouts. I'll miss sharing highs and lows, listening to stories and growing together. 

Each building holds its own special memories, but most of all, I'll miss the close-knit relationships I've built here. They're hard to find anywhere else.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

College isn't just about classes and grades. It's important to set goals, but having great friends alongside you to celebrate the good times and pick you up when things get tough is also important. The college years go by in a flash, so make sure to make the most of the time with your friends.

"Stephanie stands out as a student with marvelous initiative, who isn't afraid to try big and ambitious things, take chances, dig in and work hard, and inspire others to contribute to her vision. She will be missed here at Augustana, but I look forward to hearing about her future adventures!"

– Dr. Forrest Stonedahl, associate professor, computer science