Spring 2021

Student Spotlights: getting to know our CS students

There is no question that the Department of Computer Science is home to amazing faculty, staff, and students. I wanted to provide an opportunity for those inside and outside the department to learn about our students. The Student Spotlight provides a platform to tell our students unique backgrounds, experiences, and stories. After reading, I know that you will agree- our students are incredible.

Thanks for reading! - Martin Marquez, Director of Academic and Support Services


Sage Pezzulo

Sage Pezzulo is a junior pursuing two majors: BS in Computer Science and BS in Information Science and Technology. Sage is currently an undergraduate teaching assistant for CSC 110, Introduction to Computer Programming I.
Where are you from originally (city, state)? What high school did you attend?
I am a Tucson local! I was born and raised here and graduated from Catalina Foothills High School.
Why did you select computer science as your major? What interested you in the field?
For most of my life I thought I would go into the medical field until I realized that it was actually not the best fit for my goals in life. Around the same time I had this realization, I was a participant in a club called Girls Who Code. I loved the small club's community that I was a part of and was really inspired by the undergraduate facilitators of the program, so I decided to pursue computer science in college. My main draw to computer science is the fact that you can invent whatever you want with just a computer and your mind. There is so much room for creativity in this field which is very exciting to me.
What have you enjoyed about being a CS major at UA?
One part of being a CS major at UA that I have really enjoyed is the friends that I have made. There is no doubt that the CS classes are challenging, especially coming from a background with very little coding experience, but making friends and finding that support system has made my whole experience a lot of fun.
Tell us about your efforts to help CS with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Why are DEI initiatives important?
My first introduction to programming was through Girls Who Code, which was definitely a unique experience because I was learning programming in parallel to learning about the gender disparity in the computer science field. When I became a student in the CS department, and eventually a staff member as well, it was startling to me that not many people in the department knew about the issues with diversity and inclusion in the CS field. During the summer of 2020, I spent a lot of time considering some of my own experiences as a woman in CS and thinking about if there was a way I could help spread the word about the current state of diversity and inclusion while also making people from underrepresented groups feel supported. That is when I came up with the idea to create a website. I was ready to create the website on my own, but I told my advisor, Alex Hernandez, about my idea and he helped me put together a small faculty group to work on the project with me. Today, in addition to working with a few faculty members, I am also working with an amazing group of CS students to create and collect content for the website, which has a planned launch in March 2021.
Anybody can program and anybody can be a computer scientist, but there are currently some additional roadblocks for people from underrepresented groups that make it seem as if that is not the case. Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are extremely important because it helps support everybody involved in CS.
What advice would you give an incoming UA CS student?
I would definitely recommend going to office hours whenever you need help, even if it is a little question. I did not realize how valuable and helpful office hours were until my second programming class because I was scared that if I needed to ask for help that I was not good enough at programming. I later learned that that is absolutely not the case. By asking questions in office hours I learned things that I might now have learned on my own and I also got done with the projects much faster. Something to keep in mind is that the undergraduate teaching assistants are there to help you and are excited to help you! Computer science is tough, but there is an abundance of support from the department to help you through it.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I love to cook and bake! The most recent thing I baked was a chocolate birthday cake with purple frosting, and the next thing I want to make is a homemade version of the Oreo dream extreme cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.