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This Spotlight series recognizes a UW-Fox Valley student’s academic achievements and personal story. Students are nominated for this spotlight by faculty and staff.

Name: Eric S. McDanielEric

Age: 26

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Currently Residing: Appleton, Wisconsin

Career program/major: Computer Science

High School Attended: Lake View High School, Chicago, Illinois

UWFox student clubs/organizations:

President of the FoxBytes Computer Science Club

Member of the UW-Fox Valley Undergraduate Research Team

Member of the UW-Fox Valley Rocketeers, the campus competing rocketry team

Member of the UW-Fox Valley Engineering Society

Computer Science Student Tutor for the Learning Resource Center

What led you to choose your program or major?

I chose to pursue computer science because technology surrounds us everywhere in our daily lives. We are in the digital age, and technology will only continue to grow in prevalence regardless if we embrace these changes or not. Having a professional career in this discipline requires one to be willing to adapt to rapid new standards. I chose computer science not only because I enjoy working on computers, or that it will grow in demand, but because it also encourages me to engage frequently in learning new methodologies, blending excitement with passion in my craft.

Why did you decide to become a University of Wisconsin student at UWFox?

I moved to Appleton from Chicago in 2012 to work a job in order to support my family. I had been planning my return to academia since 2011, and when the time was finally right to select schools, I chose UWFox because of its location. Without having to relocate a family and search for new jobs, the decision was simple. Its affordable tuition also made it an appealing option.

Is there someone at UWFox who made a difference in your life or inspired you?

Professors Saleh Alnaeli and Erin DeMuynck are irreplaceable, premier faculty within UW-Fox Valley that devote countless hours to ensure their students achieve success. Their passion is remarkable, and they challenge me to perform at my absolute best. Learning and building relationships with them has deeply influenced who I am as a student and person. While they both have played a profound impact in my academic career, UWFox has many professors who are also outstanding and deserve recognition as well.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an incoming UWFox student?

Remove yourself from your comfort zone, because getting the most from the learning process requires active engagement in unfamiliar territory. Participate and be proactive on campus. Extracurricular activities are enjoyable extensions of your class time and provide opportunities to apply the skills you’ve learned in a real-world context. UWFox’s student organizations provide a friendly environment to network, learn about yourself and your goals, and enjoy what you’re studying as well.

Describe something unexpected that happened here at UWFox.

Prior to transferring to UW-Fox Valley, I attended Northeastern Illinois University, a larger four-year state university in Chicago, IL. I had predictions of what to expect here at UWFox, but UWFox vastly exceeded my expectations. Schools that are larger don’t necessarily mean they are better, and UWFox is a hidden gem found within the UW System. Faculty and instructors care about the learning outcomes, and this all shows from the small details such as one-on-one interactions and dedication to provide students the tools they need to succeed. I had never expected that I would have the opportunity to conduct and present undergraduate research with my professors until I recognized that this campus supports these opportunities.

When not in class or studying, what keeps you busy?

I always try keep myself occupied because learning continues beyond classroom hours. If I’m not in class, I can be found working on research for club activities such as the various projects FoxBytes is working on. I enjoy testing/applying what I’ve learned from Professor Alnaeli into designing software for personal use, such as coding simple games in Java or Visual Basic .NET. I am continuing research on a project with Professor DeMuynck about the impact that school closures have on Chicago neighborhoods. I enjoy spending time with my family and children, they are inspirational. I also can be found listening to, playing, transcribing, or composing jazz as a hobby – I’m currently obsessed with uncovering the genius found in the work of Bill Evans.

What are your plans after UWFox?

After one more year at UWFox, I will graduate with an Associate Degree with an Emphasis in Computer Science. My goal is to transfer to UW-Madison to earn a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. I plan to specialize in cryptography and digital security, because the need for security in our electronics is essential, as technology gets more sophisticated. I, however, plan my life with reasonable flexibility because life itself is never predictable. Who knows if I were to develop a passion in other disciplines such as computer engineering or GIS? I try to keep an open mind to alternative career options in the future.

To learn more about returning to school to earn a college degree, call (920) 832-2620 to schedule an appointment with an advisor. More than 25% of our students are over the age of 22.


Laurie Krasin