As the College of Charleston’s Class of 2020 crosses the finish line, The College Today will highlight how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what the future holds.
Paul Baier was teaching high school math in New England – a world away from Charleston, South Carolina – when he started looking for a master’s program in computer science. And, when he couldn’t find anything in his area, he decided to broaden the search.
“It really opened the door for me and my wife to go anywhere we wanted,” says Baier, adding that the couple had met in Charleston and it had always held a special place in their hearts. “It was the first choice for both of us.”
And so, when he discovered the master of science in computer and information sciences program in the College of Charleston’s Graduate School, Baier knew this was the move he wanted to make.
“It just felt like the perfect opportunity for me,” says Baier, who started the program in 2017 and was soon given the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant for Computer Science Professor Renee McCauley. “It was great because I was coming from teaching and didn’t have a job, so it was the perfect fit. I got a lot out of that experience.”
He also got a lot out of being on the other side of the lectern.
“Going from teaching and being in front of the classroom to being a student gave me a different perspective, which was kind of fun,” he says. “It made me pay attention to different things than I had as an undergraduate – I was absorbing the content, but I couldn’t help but notice the way my professors were presenting the material, how they’d structured the courses, how they interacted with students. I learned a lot from observing professors in a class in that way.”
He gained yet another new perspective when, just a couple semesters into the program, he was offered a software developer position at Charleston-based software company BoomTown!
“It’s been great going from work to the classroom and just having both of those experiences feed each other. I’ve learned a ton at work that I can apply to my studies – and I’ve learned a lot from school that, sure enough, comes up at work,” says Baier. “The College gave me the tools I needed to work in the tech industry – but it also gave me a foot in the door. It allowed me to move forward in my career and in the industry, as a whole.”
That’s not to say it’s been easy balancing a full-time job with his studies.
“It’s been a battle, I’m not going to lie. But it’s all worth it, and I’d do it all over again in a second,” he says, noting that it’s the faculty and students in the program who have made the experience so meaningful. “I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve made some great relationships with faculty. The faculty in this program care: They really care about you – and they really care about the content. It’s a great group of people – they really make you feel welcomed.”
And, this fall, the Department of Computer Science will welcome Baier as an adjunct faculty member.
“It’ll be great to be back in the classroom,” he says. “I’m super pumped!”
Baier will also continue working with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Ayman Hajja on a web-based app for teachers that the two have been working on together. He presented the project at this spring’s Graduate School poster session and hopes to submit it to a journal in the near future.
“I’m really grateful to be able to continue working on that after I graduate,” he says. “There’s so much I’m taking away from my time at the College – it’s pretty exciting.”
And it’s also exciting to see where he’ll take the experience – and where it will take him.
“I knew this program would prepare me for these new opportunities and new connections – but I had no idea how many doors it’d open up for me,” he says. “I am so grateful and excited about the whole new world I found at the College of Charleston!”