In celebration of Women’s History Month, this is the first in a series of stories on women in Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology who are paving the way, inspiring young women and promoting diversity in a typically male-dominated industry.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Andrea Miles, her path to Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology began in the middle of a Subway restaurant.
Miles, who was 20 years old at the time, had been training to become a manager.
“I had everything figured out, from hiring to inventory to running the store,” she said. “But when it came time to be put in a higher position, I realized I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. I had to make a choice.”
Having saved quite a bit of money throughout her employment, Miles literally put her finger on the map to find the next stop on her journey. She — or rather her finger — landed on Pocatello, Idaho. Moving there on her 21st birthday, she rented an apartment and enrolled at Idaho State University, where she studied speech and audio pathology.
While she succeeded academically, she soon ran out of money and made the decision to move back to her hometown of Port Matilda, Pennsylvania, and enrolled at Penn State to continue her education. Unsure of what to study, she enrolled in the Division of Undergraduate Studies and took an introductory IST class with assistant teaching professor Alison Murphy.
“Dr. Murphy’s course was so interesting, and I realized how broad and how much there was to learn about technology that I fell in love,” said Miles. “I decided that’s where I want to be, and [I wanted to be] involved with a degree that’s constantly changing and evolving.”
A unique journey
As Miles’ interest in and passion for designing and developing technology grew, so did her desire to help others. She ultimately became a learning assistant (LA) for Murphy, and currently serves in that role for Jeff Rimland, assistant teaching professor.
Being an LA for more than one professor is quite unique in the college, but the faculty she supports know she’s up to the task.
“Learning assistants have many challenging jobs, such as providing students with help on the correct approach to solving a problem without giving away the solution outright,” said Rimland. “Andrea excels at finding creative approaches to this, and any other challenge that comes our way.”