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Making Goals: Grad Succeeds as Haslam Scholar, ORNL Researcher

Four years ago, as he was finishing his senior year of high school after winning back-to-back state soccer championships, Daniel Enciso set his sights on a new goal—attending UT to study engineering.

Shoot and score: Enciso, a computer engineering major in the Tickle College of Engineering, graduated last Friday, December 14.

At UT, Enciso said, he found big opportunities.

He’s been a Haslam Scholar, conducted research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and interned at a California software company.

“Challenge yourself to do big things, be willing to adapt, and you’ll have no limit to how far you can go and what you can do,” he said.

“For me, personally, the research opportunities at ORNL have prepared me for life after college in a way that taking an internship with businesses couldn’t have,” Enciso said, adding that UT’s partnership with ORNL provides students with opportunities that simply don’t exist in many other places.

“Beyond computing, when you look at the history of the lab, the mix of disciplines all across the board, the researchers they have coming in from other universities and labs from around the world—it really sets UT apart and provides opportunities beyond what other places can offer during an undergraduate experience.

“When you step back and look at all the ways we work with them and the people we get to collaborate with through them, it really is awesome.”

While he interned with ORNL, he also landed a co-op with OSI Soft, a software company based in California, where he worked with the development of internal analytics and web services.

Enciso began dabbling with software engineering in the summer after his senior year of high school. Now it’s his favorite aspect of computer engineering and something he hopes to do in a future career.

He credits UT’s faculty for helping him hone his coding skills.

“Michael Roberts (professor emeritus) and Jens Gregor (professor and associate department head) really pushed us,” Enciso said. “Also Josh Dunn—who started out as a teaching assistant and doctoral student and is now a lecturer in the department—was the instructor for one of my last classes this semester. His insight helped shape our undergraduate learning, taught us how to communicate like older students, and stretched our capabilities.”

Enciso arrived at UT as one of 15 freshmen in the 2014 class of Haslam Scholars, and he said the program helped him grow as a student and as a citizen. It provided him with an instant group of friends which whom he shared classes, experiences, and free time.

“We had all different backgrounds, viewpoints, ideas, and the like, as you would expect from a random selection of students,” Enciso said. “But because we were bonded as a group and through common classes, it allowed us to share ideas in a civil way—to have different thoughts and it to be OK. It’s really important to have discussions like that.”

The program also offered Enciso the opportunity to travel and do community service.

He participated in Science Saturdays, an effort led by the Haslam Scholars and the Society of Physics Students that brings experiments and projects to elementary students to teach them about science, engineering, and physics. At the same time, the UT students serve as mentors to the younger students.

“It’s a big deal to these kids to be getting these experiences that they might not otherwise have,” Enciso said. “Being present. Being around. Being there to answer their questions and spark their imaginations. It’s a big deal to help them develop confidence.”

Enciso expanded his horizons by traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, with the Haslam Scholars to learn about the Scottish Enlightenment. He also did a study abroad semester in England, studying consumer behavior at the London School of Economics.

He’s gained plenty of knowledge to prepare him for the next challenge, but he’s also learned the power of the Volunteer spirit.

“You can go to a big city and see groups from any number of schools, but it’s just different with UT,” Enciso said. “Whether I’m in Silicon Valley, or a big city somewhere, people see that you’re from UT and it is just an instant connection. It’s just something that makes this place special.”

CONTACT

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)

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