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Surrounded by inspiration, Appalachian alumnus keeps applications running at IBM

BOONE, N.C. — As a site reliability engineer at IBM, Appalachian State University alumnus Chris Waldon’s favorite aspect of his job is working with great people who inspire him. “I’m surrounded by brilliant software engineers, and I get to learn from them daily,” he said.

It is not surprising that Waldon ’16 ’18 still has a thirst for learning. He graduated summa cum laude from Appalachian with a Bachelor of Science in computer science in 2016, was an Honors College student as well as a Chancellor’s Scholar, and earned his Master of Science in computer science in 2018.

“The Honors College helped me develop and improve my soft skills … It taught me to think critically about everything, not just in my field of study.”

Chris Waldon ’16 ’18, a site reliability engineer at IBM

While a graduate student, Waldon ran computer systems labs, teaching students to use the Linux operating system, and served as a faculty lecturer in Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science (CS) after graduating.

“Teaching the fundamentals helped me appreciate them. Additionally, the experience helped me become comfortable in front of an audience,” he said.

In his position at IBM, Waldon manages several business-critical applications that are used by software development teams across all of IBM to build and deliver their products and services. He credits the Honors College at Appalachian for providing skills he uses every day in his job.

“It (the Honors College) helped me develop and improve my soft skills — communication, interacting with others, time management and work ethic. It taught me to think critically about everything, not just in my field of study,” Waldon said.

Waldon also praised Appalachian’s computer science program. “The CS faculty deliver more value than simply course content. They really care about their students — they know the students’ names, are interested in their lives and help them work towards their goals. The faculty invested a ton of time and energy into me while I was there,” Waldon shared.

“Dr. Dee Parks (now retired), who taught my first-ever computer science class, was very patient with me. Later, during my undergraduate time, she helped me get started as a tutor for other CS students,” Waldon said. “Professor Frank Barry, who taught me some of the most difficult material in the field, helped me learn the skills I value most from my degree.”

Outside of class, Waldon started [email protected], a club for students interested in using the Linux operating system — an alternative to macOS or Windows. “You can do a lot with Linux that isn’t possible on other systems,” Waldon explained. “Since most of the internet and all of the systems I use at IBM run on Linux, learning and teaching about it at Appalachian helped me develop the practical skill I now use daily.”

Waldon completed several internships, including two with IBM in Research Triangle Park and one with local web development company Overmountain Studios in Boone.

“I was also able to participate in two study abroad experiences: one in Dublin, Ireland, through my Chancellor’s Scholarship, and one in France, Belgium and Germany.”

Waldon said the Chancellor’s Scholarship made a huge difference in his path through college. “I was surrounded by some of the best and brightest people whom I have ever met, some who are now my best friends.”

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Computer Science (BS)

The world runs on technology. By learning how to develop software, you are entering a field with endless opportunities – from software for businesses or research, to apps and a demanding job market.

Computer Science: Master of Science (MS)

Appalachian’s Master of Science program in Computer Science is an applied program that provides students with graduate education in the study of the core areas of the discipline: software design, hardware systems, theoretical foundations, and the synergies of these areas.

About the Department of Computer Science

Appalachian’s Department of Computer Science provides a rigorous, high-quality education that prepares students for the computing industry or graduate education. It offers a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, which is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, and a Master of Science degree in computer science. Learn more at https://compsci.appstate.edu.

About the College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university’s strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

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