Leading the Field

It’s pretty tough to stand out as an undergraduate in the College of Computing.  The computer science and computational media programs are full of talented, intelligent and focused young adults working hard and preparing themselves for successful careers. But Michael Slaughter stands out.

It’s pretty tough to stand out as an undergraduate in the College of Computing.  The computer science and computational media programs are full of talented, intelligent and focused young adults working hard and preparing themselves for successful careers. But Michael Slaughter stands out.

He looks like a typical college student, in jeans and tennis shoes, with a heavy backpack over one shoulder. When he starts talking, however, Slaughter shows that he is— at 22 years old—as grounded and self-assured as some men twice his age. He’s personable, bright and surprisingly wise.

Michael Slaughter
 

“I’m not a genius coder or anything, but I know how to get help,” he says. “I know where to go when I feel like I’m struggling. Succeeding is all about asking for help when you need it.”

Slaughter is a senior in the Threads program, which requires all students to choose two of the eight possible threads, or concentrations, in the field. He chose People and Information on the first day of his freshman year.

His major academic interest is in user interfaces and ways to connect people to technology that will help them communicate better with each other. A minor in sociology is giving Slaughter some perspective on how different groups behave and interact and how society and technology connect. It’s fascinating, he says, to watch how elderly people look at and use technology as opposed to kids who have grown up with it.

In high school in Sandy Springs, a suburb of Atlanta, Slaughter thought he wanted to study chemistry. He shifted to computer science the summer before his senior year, when he attended a camp held by the Institute for Computing Education at Georgia Tech.

“Computing was fascinating and fun, and the Tech people were great,” he says. “All my friends in high school said CS was going to be too hard and that I should study something else. It is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”

Michael Slaughter

Senior Michael Slaughter has been a leader ever since he set foot on Georgia Tech’s campus, including a year as president of Minorities@CC and another representing Computing undergrads in the Student Government Association.

 

Slaughter says he has always been drawn to problem solving, and he likes that computing can help solve important problems across so many fields. Even more, it often gives quick, concrete results.

“The thing I really like about using computing to solve problems is that about 99 percent of the time you have immediate feedback about whether your solution is right,” he says. “It’s not just some theory that it’s right—it’s actual evidence.”

Slaughter also has been actively involved in student life at the College. He worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant and participated in Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Computing (UROC), a program designed to help undergraduate students get involved in the research culture at Georgia Tech.  During the 2008-09 year, he served as president of Minorities@CoC, a student group that focuses on building a strong computer science community among minority students. In 2009-10, he represented the College in Georgia Tech’s Student Government Association, serving on an IT committee that redesigned the undergraduate course critique system. Slaughter also mentored entering freshman through the College’s mentor program.

In Fall 2009, Slaughter was the driving factor behind the College of Computing’s becoming the first Georgia Tech academic unit to formally participate in Homecoming. He pulled together a group of students, staff and faculty to produce an effort that earned the College third place in the Student Organizations division and first place in the Display Contest.

Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean of the Office of Outreach, Enrollment and Community, says team building comes naturally to Slaughter.

“Michael has great potential as a leader in the technical fields due to his social and academic skills,” Stallworth says. “Beyond those, he has the ability to recognize opportunities presented and take full advantage of them.”

“Sometimes it’s really hard to get people motivated and to connect with each other, and I don’t get that at all,” Slaughter says. “Just through my extracurricular activities, I feel much more a part of the community. It’s helped me socially and academically, meeting professors and fellow students.”

After graduating in Fall 2010, Slaughter will tackle the job market, perhaps while pursuing his master’s in information security. Whatever path he takes, it’s a safe bet it will take him where he wants to go.