Trisha Agarwal ’20

Major: Computer science; math minor

Co-curriculars: EXCEL Scholar, Mock Trial, Bias Response Team, International Student Association, Alternative School Break, Refugee Action, Women in Computing, head resident, and more

Postgraduation plans: Now working full time as a software engineer at Electronic Arts

Describe your senior year in three words.

Unexpected, gratifying, and fun. Spring semester was cut short because of COVID-19, but I was spending more time balancing between academics, co-curriculars, and actually having fun. My overall experience at Lafayette was great.

What does being valedictorian mean to you?

It’s the acknowledgement of the fact that I was someone who prioritized academics, tried to be very involved on campus, as well as tried to have a strong voice on a variety of topics. 

What’s your favorite Lafayette memory?

Celebrating 100 Nights. It was a really fun way to see all of my different friends come together at a cool venue with good music.

What’s the most impactful class you took?

Operating Systems with Professor Joann Ordille. It gave me a much deeper understanding of what is actually going on under the hood in computers. Efficiency is very important in game development. Operating Systems gave me a new understanding of how computers work and how to make them more efficient.

Who was the most influential person during your time at the College?

Dean Christopher Hunt. He’s not at Lafayette anymore, but he helped me find my voice as a student advocate. He was always trying to make sure I had a platform and could speak my mind.

What will you miss most about Laf?

The people, without a doubt. Lafayette has a vibrant and diverse community in terms of different kinds of intelligence, talent, thought processes, and worldviews. I’ve learned a lot from that over the years.

Describe your biggest challenge and how you overcame it.

Finding a balance between wanting to be a student-leader, wanting to focus on my academics, and having a social life was definitely one of the hardest things I had to do at Lafayette. I was able to develop a lot of time-management tools and prioritize what mattered to me.

What do you wish for your fellow graduating classmates?

I hope we are able to navigate the challenging times that we are in, in terms of COVID-19 but also in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement. I just hope we’re able to work through it and make positive change, because we are at the helm of it by graduating at this time.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

Everyone is struggling as much as you are. It’s easy to think others are succeeding and you’re struggling. But everyone’s in the same boat. Don’t be intimidated.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with upcoming seniors?

Have fun. This year won’t come back, and the life that you know at Lafayette won’t come back. Take the time to appreciate it.

How has Lafayette changed you?

I have learned to think a lot more before I speak. I have learned to listen, empathize, and understand before I act. I’ve been exposed to a lot more ideas that have pushed me to think about issues in a variety of ways, which is important both for social justice and for computer science.

How do you hope to change the world?

It’s hard to say exactly how this will manifest because I don’t know where I’ll be in a few years. But I think it will have something to do with inclusion in workspaces and the appreciation of different viewpoints.

The most important thing you learned about yourself at Lafayette is:

I’m an international student and a brown woman. Working in software engineering isn’t necessarily where we stereotypically seem to belong. But through the Lafayette community, I was able to develop a sense of belonging in STEM and a sense of confidence in my skills, which is important for my career.

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