Senior Computer Science Major Sergeant Alexander Thibedeau discusses changing career paths, life at UMassD, and helping other veterans feel welcome on campus
Changing career paths
Alexander Thibedeau, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 2005-2014, started his undergraduate career studying criminal justice part-time in 2007, but quickly realized his passion for technology while working in aviation electronics for the United States Marine Corps.
“I originally thought I wanted to work in law enforcement,” said Thibedeau. “While taking classes part-time, I had gained real-world technology experience that I really enjoyed as a production supervisor for aviation. I wanted to finish my degree before entering the workforce full-time, so I graduated from the University of Maryland Global Campus with a B.A. in criminal justice in 2014.”
Upon his graduation and the conclusion of his service in 2014, Thibedeau went on to work as a field services technician at Schlumberger, a global energy services company, and as a field services engineer at Teledyne Taptone, an industrial automation company in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
“I’d decided to go into engineering, but felt like to progress in my career I’d need an engineering degree. I knew I didn’t want to go into mechanical engineering, and I had already gained experience with electrical engineering technology,” Thibedeau said. “The last one left was computer science with a software engineering concentration, so that’s what I felt would teach me the most, making me the most well-rounded.”
Life at UMassD
Upon deciding to go back to school, proximity, price, and reputation were the three major attractions for Thibedeau. “UMass Dartmouth checked all three boxes and was therefore the best value for me. The ease of access to a reputable program was unmatched,” said Thibedeau.
“My favorite activity on campus is my senior design course, CIS 498, which has paired with General Dynamics to create a new product; the Internet of Things (IOT) MicroCloud. It’s challenging but very rewarding and provides us with real-world experience in software engineering.
“Professor Valova, who teaches my CIS 498 course, and Professor Clinton Rogers have been especially welcoming to me and made my transition much easier. Sometimes you can feel out of place coming back to school, but they’ve helped me to realize we’re all here for the same reason, but no one comes from the same place. I’d also be remiss not to mention Professor Adriano Marzullo. He’s the best math teacher I’ve ever had. He brings such a passion for the subject and puts himself out there to breathe life into what can be a difficult topic.”
Thibedeau, who serves as the university’s veterans assistant, got involved with the Veterans Assistance Office after former veterans assistant Alexander Moulton recommended him for the position.
“It’s hard enough for veterans to go back to college with oftentimes a lot going on outside of their classwork. Our office tries to help veterans make their education a more manageable process and feel more included on campus,” said Thibedeau. “My journey would have been a lot harder without the assistance and understanding that the university, faculty, and staff has continued to provide me.
“I’m happy to be at a place that makes my and other veterans’ journeys easier and less stressful. UMass Dartmouth has always been very accommodating, and that’s inspired me to want to help other veterans as well. I think being picked as a Military Friendly Gold School speaks well of the university.”
Bringing professional experience into the classroom
“My experiences in industry definitely help me to understand the human element of the producer and the consumer. I know how to manage customers’ expectations and salespeople's promises,” said Thibedeau. “Bringing that into the classroom helps me to apply theoreticals to real-world scenarios.”
Advice to other students
“Don’t give up when you face adversity. It might feel easier, but in the long run it’s worth it to fight through and lean into it.”