Navy veteran and College of Charleston computer science major Rex Ferrer is spending his summer digging into the world of algorithms and machine learning thanks to a partnership between Student Veterans of America (SVA) and Google.

SVA and Google have awarded eight $10,000 scholarships to student veterans pursuing computer science degrees, including Ferrer. As part of the scholarship, recipients will attend Google’s 2018 Summer Annual Scholars’ Retreat in Mountain View, California.

“I’m interested in pursuing my graduate studies in artificial intelligence (AI), and this scholarship will assist me in that,” says Ferrer. “I’ll gain an advanced level of education in AI that will empower me to use it ethically and compassionately on a global scale.”

The College of Charleston established the Veteran and Military Student Services office in 2015 with the mission to support veteran and military students and help them make a smooth transition from military to campus life. The office acts as a hub to connect veteran and military students with any resources they may need, such as financial aid, counseling through a VA VITAL coordinator or peer support.

“There are hundreds of scholarships for veterans online, but it’s very time consuming for them to sift through all of them to find what applies to them,” says Jessica Wilkes, program coordinator for the College’s Veteran and Military Student Services. “As a resource we started researching and sending out scholarship announcements each semester to make it easier for them to find scholarships applicable to them.”

And that’s how Ferrer learned of the Google-SVA scholarship.

“Google’s education and scholarship programs aim to inspire and help students become future leaders in computing and technology by breaking down the barriers that prevent them from entering these fields,” says Sarah Safir, a specialist in Tech Student Development Programs at Google. “Partnering with Student Veterans of America allows us to support student veterans in their academic careers and beyond. Google is proud to support the veteran community through the Google-SVA Scholarship.”

But it was an opportunity Ferrer says he wasn’t confident he would get.

“With any scholarship, it’s hard to imagine yourself getting selected when there are so many qualified applicants,” he says. “So, when I did receive the phone call, I was extremely surprised, excited, humbled and honored to be selected.”

The experience of attending Google’s Scholars’ Retreat comes as Ferrer prepares to begin his sophomore year at the College, and it’s an opportunity of which he hopes to take full advantage.

“I’m most looking forward to meeting my fellow scholars, hearing their stories and gaining further insight into how to achieve my long-term goals,” he says.