Kevin Hufnagle, '13

Hometown: Marshfield, MA

Degree: BS, Computer Science and Professional Writing

Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I have always appreciated WPI’s commitment to the humanities and arts. My exposure to writing and rhetoric topics in my first-year classes allowed me to discover my interest in communicating ideas to different audiences, which is why I took on Professional Writing as a second major at the end of my first year at WPI.

I have also enjoyed completing projects in addition to, and sometimes instead of, taking exams in my classes at WPI. These courses have challenged me to identify key problems in my major fields of study, then design and implement creative solutions and responses to these problems. I have therefore become more confident in my ability to address similar problems and questions in a professional setting once I graduate.

How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
By gaining practical experience in addition to theoretical knowledge in my classes at WPI, I have been able to explore the applications and significance of ideas that I find particularly intriguing, establishing a personal investment in these ideas. As I work on team-based projects, I have been able to contribute these ideas to group discussions and compare them with equally interesting suggestions from my teammates. By applying these interdisciplinary ideas to the guidelines of a particular project, my teammates and I often create professional deliverables that will serve as useful exhibits during future interviews for employment and extracurricular opportunities.

What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
The majority of my classes at WPI, including almost all of my writing classes, have had 25 or fewer students in them. Such a small number of classmates in these courses has allowed me to engage in more frequent and more in-depth discussions with my professors. These conversations have encouraged me to think more critically and creatively about the course material and have created opportunities for me to establish connections between seemingly disparate ideas among the courses that I have completed.

In addition to interacting with a group of very supportive professors, I have received invaluable support from the different tutoring centers on campus, particularly from the Writing Center. The students who lead sessions at the Writing Center have encouraged me to examine my scientific and writing papers from a different perspective rather than simply identify errors in my prose and presentation. This conversational approach to improving my papers has allowed me to identify patterns of weakness in my writing that I can address more proactively in future assignments.

How have the professors in your department impacted your studies and your life?
Besides encouraging me to think more deeply about the ideas in the courses that they instruct, my professors have prompted me to consider my academic and professional future. They have encouraged me to “think out loud” and explain the thought process that I have undergone as I have completed assignments. This process has helped me discover the methods I use to complete course work most effectively and identify the topics in each of my courses that I find most interesting.

In particular, my academic advisors – Professor Pollice and Professor deWinter – have recommended courses and career paths that have allowed me to further investigate the ideas within these fields. They have helped to increase my confidence in selecting classes that offer interesting projects and in selecting employment positions that offer relevant experience.

What are your research projects?
For my Humanities and Arts project, I wrote a research paper discussing the effects of Google’s offering fewer forums for users of Gmail Labs to discuss the experimental new features that the company offers in its email application. After learning about the process Google uses to introduce and update features in Gmail Labs, identifying patterns in conversations about the shortcomings of different features in Gmail Labs on two separate discussion forums, and discovering that one of these forums was no longer in use, I concluded that Google might start developing less creative ideas for future Gmail Labs since fewer methods of user feedback are now available.

For my Major Qualifying Project, I will be working on the communications division of a team from WPI and two other schools who will construct a zero-energy solar house for the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition. By developing a website and creating information materials using different media and catering to different audiences, I will demonstrate to the contest judges and citizens of China the benefits of implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices in residential buildings, especially those present in the home that the team constructs.

What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
Upon graduating from WPI, I hope to educate the general public about new software, explaining to them how to complete tasks and accomplish goals with this technology. By better understanding the benefits and uses of new software, members of the general public will more likely use it to improve the quality of their lives. My ideal job would be either a technical writer or a user experience designer, since both of these positions would allow me to assist the public in using new pieces of software more effectively. These positions would also give me an opportunity to use a variety of new technological products, allowing me to constantly refine my ability to explain the products’ different interaction strategies to prospective users.

Groups or extracurricular activities you participate in at WPI:

  • I am the Of-The-Month (OTM) Chair of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), where I guide fellow students through the process of recognizing outstanding leadership and service from students and other activity groups at WPI, primarily through essays describing the students’ and groups’ accomplishments.
  • I help organize alumni events and historical documents for Glee Club, an all-male singing group at WPI, as a member of the Glee Club Ancestry Committee.
  • I regularly attend meetings and events for the Residence Hall Council (RHC), a group that offers academic and social events and leadership development opportunities for the on-campus community and for each of WPI’s nine residence halls.
  • I will help promote the computer science department as I become a member of the WPI chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), the computer science honor society, this December.

Academic or professional awards you have received:

  • In the summer before my first year, I received one of the first ten Foisie Scholarship awards, an honor that celebrates impressive academic performance in high school and a strong desire for continuing to solve problems creatively at WPI.
  • As I began my sophomore year, I won an award from the Charles O. Thompson scholarship program for outstanding academic performance during my first year at WPI.
  • In my junior year, I received the second-place prize for the Dr. Neil Sullivan Memorial Award, which recognizes dedicated Computer Science students at WPI who demonstrate a significant amount of potential for success in the future.

Additional comments about WPI and/or your general experience here:
WPI has allowed me to grow immensely, both as a student and as a person. I now have a very strong understanding of my academic strengths and professional interests, particularly those that involve writing, thanks to the rigorous and inquisitive nature of the courses and projects that I have completed over the past three years. I cannot thank my professors and fellow students enough for guiding me through a challenging but very rewarding academic adventure.

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