Standout Seniors: Meet Cara Harben (Software Engineering)

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2022 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Cara Harben. 

cara harben1

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.

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

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