Sahar Abdullah: Role Model for Women’s IT Education

Most young women growing up in Yemen have few opportunities for higher education and professional jobs. But Sahar Abdullah’s parents believe that higher education plays an integral role in personal development, so they strongly encouraged Sahar and her sister to continue education after high school.

Because Sahar was one of the top secondary school students in Yemen, she received a scholarship to study for her bachelor’s degree in Egypt. Her love for programming and problem solving led Sahar to choose computer science as her major. At Cairo University she successfully completed her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and master’s degree in Information Systems, and completed a Cisco diploma at American University.

After learning about our unique MS in Computer Science in a LinkedIn message from MUM, Sahar kept thinking that one master’s degree was enough–but the idea for a second master’s emphasizing OOP software development kept popping into her head. So she decided to research Maharishi University of Management and our MS in Computer Science for Computer Professionals program, and joined our Facebook group. When Sahar realized that many Arab students had happily and successfully enrolled in this program, she decided to apply, and was accepted for the October 2014 entry.

Happy at MUM

When she first arrived at MUM last year, Sahar’s initial impression of the University was that everyone here was happy. She told her mother, “All the people here are smiling and saying hi!”

After a year on campus, Sahar reflects on the special nature of the MUM/Fairfield, Iowa community: “I really love this peaceful environment that I am in–an environment full of love, happiness and joy obtained from the incredible benefits of practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. Just living in this community with international software professionals all doing TM together is an honor for me in itself.”

Even though she is far from her parents and sister, and misses them very much, Sahar’s family is relieved to know she is in a very safe and completely supportive environment at MUM.

Harmony in Diversity

“As a Muslim lady living in Fairfield, I feel that people around me are respecting me and others,” says Sahar. “They treat me as one of them, despite the fact that I wear my scarf. I have never felt mistreated. Friends greet us on Eid (a Muslim holiday), and Eid prayers trips are arranged for us.”

Top Academics

Sahar has also been pleased with the academics in the Computer Professionals program: “The program’s high standards create a powerful motivation. I look to this program like a tree: You plant the seed, water it, and take care of it. As the knowledge grows within, you gain fruits forever. Every aspect of the academic program was the best either in moments of challenge, or moments of success. The courses were very challenging, but now that I am finished, I am ready for my curricular practical training internship in the IT industry.”

Advice for Other Female Software Developers

“Nowadays, the biggest challenge for a female is to be employed and feel useful for society and herself. I would like to tell all female software developers who feel they are creative, full of ideas, and dreams, but have not found the appropriate ways to express their talents–at MUM you will get the support and knowledge to realize the best in your skills and competencies.”


A Bright Future

In January, Sahar will begin her IT career as a Software Engineer at Intel in Oregon where she will be part of a product development engineer team. Her job will be transforming designs into competitive products, and testing development for microprocessors, system-on-chips and chip sets. We wish her great happiness and success, as we stay in touch with another special member of our world family.

Student Achieves Success

Zheng Yang has a strong thirst for knowledge, and the desire to excel as an IT professional.

Prior to enrolling in our MSCS program, Zheng worked for about 2 years as a Software Engineer in mainland China. At that time he started looking for a graduate program combining academic learning and practical working opportunities. Once he heard about the MS in Computer Science for Computer Professionals at Maharishi University of Management, he applied and began his studies here in February 2010.

While still an MUM student, Zheng Yang has already achieved a number of laudable professional achievements. Following completion of his on-campus courses, Zheng interned at Snibbe Interactive in San Francisco as an Immersive Media Software Engineer. There he got the chance to work with Scott Snibbe, the pioneer of computer vision technology, who came up with the idea of “Gravilux.”

Microsoft Featured App: Gravilux

Gravilux is an interactive musical starfield visualizer: it’s a combination of music, animation, art, and science. As you touch the screen, gravity draws simulated stars to your fingertips. You can tease and twist the particles into galaxies, or explode them like a supernova. Color the stars by their speed, and make them dance. After making a version for IOS, Zheng was instrumental in making a version of Gravilux for Windows 8. Out of 50,000 apps in the Windows Store “Entertainment” category, Microsoft decided to feature Gravilux.

Wrote and Published Book

While working full time at Snibbe, Zheng was also completing distance education courses as part of his MUM MS program. On his own time, he wrote the book, Windows Phone 7 XNA Cookbook. Because there were no specific books about game programming for Windows Phone at the time, he wanted to share what he had learned. After 17 months of writing and editing, the book was published in cookbook style, offering solutions using a recipe-based approach. Each recipe contains detailed instructions followed by analysis of what was done in each step. The book was written for aspiring game programmers who have basic knowledge of C# and object-oriented programming, and want to create games for Windows Phone 7. Reviews have been quite positive.

Goals

Zheng Yang’s goals include making a video game engine that can provide realistic playing experiences, and developing a new art form called “Generative Art,” which creates computer generated music and painting. His MSCS program at MUM has been a big help in allowing Zheng to rethink the best practices for designing the architecture of game engines with efficient algorithms. He has been most stimulated by the Advanced Programming Design, Computer Graphics, and Algorithms courses at MUM.

Zheng especially appreciates the MUM block system of studying one course full-time each month, allowing for dedication and deep appreciation of each discipline. He finds the quiet and peaceful campus atmosphere ideal for calm, focused studying.

To assist other software developers in advancing their careers, Zheng advises people to work hard and keep learning. People should enjoy what they do, practice their skills every day, never give up, challenge themselves, manage time well, maintain discipline, and remain optimistic.

TM Practice

Zheng says that practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique produces a calm, relaxed mind and enhances self-knowledge in a fast and noisy world, leading to greater patience and productivity.

Current Activities

At the beginning of April this year, Zheng returned to MUM to take two additional courses of great interest: (1) Mobile Device Programming, and (2) Enterprise Architecture. Because mobile programming with Android is one of the main streams in current technology, and because he only has experience on Windows Phone and IOS, Zheng is taking the Mobile programming course to learn Android programming.

Venezuelan Student Travels the World Promoting ‘Free Knowledge’

Damian Finol is no stranger to international travel. When he was a baby, his parents brought him from Maracaibo, Venezuela to the U.S., so they could pursue graduate studies. More than 25 years later, Damian has returned to the U.S. for his own graduate education in Computer Science at Maharishi University of Management.

Damian’s love of traveling has led to work with the Wikimedia Foundation, where he helps establish Wikimedia chapters on every continent to bring “free knowledge” worldwide—a major accomplishment of which he is very proud. He is one of only 8-10 international Wikimedia Chapter Committee members with this distinction.

Damian Finol at the United Nations in New York.

For example, in 2006, Damian gave a presentation at Wikimania at Harvard University on the usage of Wikipedia in Native South American tribes in northwestern Venezuela. Then, in 2008, in the historic Library in Alexandria, Egypt, Damian lectured on, “Social attitudes of Latin Americans toward Spanish Wikipedia.” This 25-minute lecture can be viewed at the movie archive of the Library.

The Foundation continues to send him to different countries to establish chapters for preserving and disseminating free knowledge. Next month, he goes to Germany during spring break at MUM.

IT experience

While studying to be an Informatics Engineer at Universidad Rafael Belloso Chacin in Maracaibo, Damian did mostly JSP/Servlets, and then switched to Unix/Linux system administration. This evolved to IT Security, where he worked for two of the biggest banks in Venezuela. He was responsible for managing the security of a big range of projects, including EMV chip technology on credit/debit cards and PCI-DSS Compliance (As required by VISA/MasterCard).

From 2008-2011, Damian taught SQL/Databases, Project Management, Systems, IT Security and Linux as an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Nueva Esparta University in Caracas.

Education at MUM

After 5-6 years of Software Engineering, Damian decided to continue his academic preparation with a Masters degree. Several friends raved about their experiences at MUM, and after some research he decided that the curriculum (7-8 months of courses, studying one course per month full-time, followed by up to two years of paid authorized practical training in a U.S. company) was most inviting. He also liked the fact that the program fosters personal growth through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® program.

According to Damian, “MSCS courses at MUM are incredibly up-to-date. Classes in software development, programming practices, etc., teach the latest practical skills and algorithms, so you’re ready for the current job field.”

Life at MUM

Even though Damian is accustomed to a much warmer Venezuelan climate, the few months of cold Fairfield, Iowa weather don’t bother him. “The human warmth among students, Computer Science administrators, and the caring, experienced faculty at MUM is very comforting.”

“People on campus and in the community are very friendly to the diverse student body. There are lots of activities in the Latino clubs, and a welcoming Catholic Church nearby. After only a couple days on campus, you can start calling the university your second home,” adds Damian.

Misconceptions before arriving at MUM

“My main misconception when I heard and read about MUM was the Transcendental Meditation Movement behind it, and how it sounded like a religious movement. This of course wasn’t the case. The Transcendental Meditation technique is not related to religion in any way, and is supported by more than 600 scientific studies documenting benefits in all areas of life. It’s a technique that helps the mind like yoga helps the body. So learning about it, and experiencing what it was all about showed me that TM is a universal technique that improves precision and clarity of thinking, and creativity, which make algorithms easier to design.”

“The MUM community is very multicultural. Students come from many different backgrounds, cultures and religions: from Arabs, to Indians, Nepalese, Ethiopians, Chinese, and of course Latinos. The University has a big Christian community (Catholic, Protestant), and other religions too (Muslim, Hindu, etc.). MUM encourages students to observe religious holidays and fosters students to express their culture and religion freely. There’s no incompatibility between the Transcendental Meditation Movement and religion or culture.”

Goals

Damian thinks big, and everyone who meets him is impressed with his good nature, balanced personality, professional competence, self-confidence, and motivation for success. He would love to help create the next Google or Facebook, and is already making plans to start his own IT company. Upon completing his on-campus coursework in June, Damian plans to take an internship position near family in Seattle while enjoying a comfortable, safe and happy life.

Advice for Software Professionals

“My advice is to go for it. Don’t be afraid to see the world and experience life. Coming to MUM has been a tremendously positive experience—one that I’m sure I’ll remember fondly for many decades. It’s a fun place to study and to grow.”

The University isn’t just here to teach about Computer Science, but also to help you grow as a person. That’s not something that is seen in other universities. In a regular university, knowledge is taught without thinking how the body and mind process it. At MUM there’s also a focus on how development of mind and body makes that knowledge useful and more insightful. It truly is a different (and positive) way of learning.”

Watch a video about Damian and our MSCS program on YouTube.

Software Engineer, Student, and Scholar

Our MSCS student interns work full-time in their professional IT positions. They also take required distance education courses. As a result, most students find little time left for any other activities. Mohamed Sobhy M.A. Farag is an exception. Not only is he working full-time as a Technical Consultant for the top IT consulting company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earning A’s in his distance education courses, but Mohamed has made the time to pursue a number of scholarly activities.

Mohamed was born in a small town in northern Egypt, and attended primary and high school in Saudi Arabia. By the time he finished high school, he was ranked sixth among the top ten students in Saudi Arabia. During this period Mohamed became inspired by computers, and he returned to Egypt to study Computer Science in Menoufia University, where he specialized on the architecture of computing machines and operating systems.

By third level at Menoufia University, Mohamed was listed on the FreeBSD contributor list. He got the opportunity to develop an approach for loading FreeBSD kernel modules at run time dynamically. As a result of this project, he was awarded a Google Summer of Code Prize. His interest reached to both the node structure level, and to the node communication level. By the fourth year at Menoufia University, he studied Computer networks and received CCNA Academy certificate (CISCO Certified Network Associate). In May 2011, he graduated with a grade of Excellent with Honor degree.

Recent Honors and Achievements

During 2010 and 2011, Mohamed received several honors:

  • First place in “Best Programming Project”, Renewable Energy Conference, Egypt, 2010.
  • Google Summer of Code Award, Google, 2010.
  • First place in “Best Programming Project”, Renewable Energy Conference, Egypt, 2011.
  • Top 20 Engineers in Egypt, 2011.
  • Technical Lead at ArabBSD project (December, 2010 – Present).
  • Organizer at Google Developer Group (January 2011 – Present).

Mohamed’s recent scholarly achievements:

  • August 2012: Mohamed published the article, “Multicore dynamic kernel modules attachment technique for kernel performance enhancement,” in the International Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology (IJCSIT), vol 4, no 4, under the Maharishi University of Management, Department of Computer Science.
  • December 2012: He published, “An enhanced run-time kernel visual debugger,” in the IEEE 8th International Computer Engineering Conference (ICENCO) Proceedings, also under the Maharishi University of Management, Department of Computer Science.
  • February 2013: Mohamed was formally invited to speak at the session on “The Emerging Mobile Applications and Services” at BIT’s 2nd Annual World Congress of Emerging InfoTech-2013, to be held June, 2013 in Dalian, China.
  • March 2013: Mohamed’s proposal, “Cryptology from Operating System Paradigm,” was accepted as a chapter for a new book discussing the importance of information security in a multidisciplinaric manner. In this context, “multidisciplinary” indicates the presentation of computer security topics in terms of other disciplines, i.e. introducing security in file systems, kernels or cloud instead of offering pure security topics. Currently, his chapter is being revised by several professors who specialize in computer security.
  • April 2013: He was invited to participate in the US Department of Defense “Cloud Computing & Assurance for Critical DoD Initiatives Conference” in Maryland.

Why attend MUM?

When asked why he chose Maharishi University of Management for his Masters degree in Computer Science, Mohamed replied, “The choice for graduate study depends on a student’s objective. The majority of programs miss the ability of tracking market needs. There’s a gap between the theoretical research and practical life. I can feel it in my new workplace where we have other universities’ Master’s students lacking the industrial qualities. From my perspective, MUM is one of the top places in preparing students with the required qualities and experiences for the US market. I gained the industrial experience indirectly during my on-campus studies at MUM, and have faced many situations in my job similar to what I had in course labs.”

Advantages of practicing the TM® technique

“The focus on self-development along with educational qualities is fascinating at MUM. Transcendental Meditation as a common self-development technique [practiced by all students, faculty and staff at MUM] helps me to listen to my inward capabilities, and to enhance my emotional stability.”

Future goals

Mohamed’s goals: “According to the rest and activity cycle, I’m planning to return to academic studies soon. I’m intending to study for a PhD to build and refine my systematic thinking and investigate new ways of problem solving.” He is considering MIT, Stanford and Carnegie-Melon for his PhD.

Advice for other Software Engineers

“Maharishi University of Management is one of the top programs which prepares students for top industrial positions in the US IT market. You should consider MUM if you want to be a leader in the IT world.”

Ethiopians and Eritreans at Home at MUM

Walking through the McLaughlin Building, home of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Maharishi University of Management, you meet students with a rich diversity of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. While more than 40 nationalities are usually represented in the MSCS program on-campus at any given time, it becomes apparent that there are more Ethiopians than any other nationality represented. In fact, since our MSCS program began in 1996, the largest number of graduates come from Ethiopia. Out of 1205 graduates, 289 are Ethiopian. Among currently enrolled students on-campus and doing internships around the U.S., Ethiopians are also the largest group represented with 155.

Why do so many Ethiopians come to the US for graduate school?

According to Sundus Yousuf, who first got interested in computers in Ethiopia at age 10, and is currently doing his curricular practical training internship in the Research Information Systems Department at the University of Iowa, “It’s the American Dream. The USA gives this world image that it’s such a great country and that anyone can be successful if they work hard enough.”

Professionally, Sundus would like to work his way up from small organizations involved in software development, and then take another step to larger innovative IT organizations. Next, he hopes to earn a PhD, so that he can contribute to research related to Artificial Intelligence or the IBM Smarter Planet®.

Why attend MUM in particular?

Sundus transferred to MUM from another U.S. university when he didn’t see his goals being achievable at that university.

“The attraction of MUM was that:

  • It is made up of people from almost every nation, tribe, and region of the world. MUM is the most diverse university that I have come across. Study at MUM gives international students the chance not only to experience American culture, but to meet people from every corner of the world.
  • Another undeniable reason is the financial support that the school provides for its esteemed international students. This is a very big plus for any international student as it gives us the chance to explore our limits without any financial boundaries.
  • Last, but definitely not least, is the employability record and reputation the school has developed among the U.S. Fortune 500 IT companies. It’s every student’s dream to be employed in any of these companies, and to put their knowledge to the ultimate test by practicing it in the real world.”

What pleases you the most in your experience at MUM?

“Because classes are on the block system, we study one course a month, and then change. This is great because you never get bored or feel unsatisfied in a class for an extended period of time. The environment is very calm and peaceful, and this helps you focus deeply, achieve your daily assignments, and fulfill your dreams. The courses offered in my program are well tailored to the current era of technology, which is a very good thing, since technology is evolving so rapidly.

What advice would you give software developers for success and satisfaction in life?

“What was yesterday is not today and will not be tomorrow, so keep yourself up-to-date on the latest technologies to stay in the game. One more thing—knowing what you need to know matters, whether you’re just starting out as a software developer (or planning to become one), so make a good commitment to it. MUM’s Computer Professionals education system is wonderful. The courses offered are up-to-dateespecially the two-week seminar courses, which play a big role in keeping us current. Moreover, the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® technique is integrated with the education system, which gives us a clear vision of the road ahead.

Eritrean students and graduates 2013.

Along with the Ethiopian students, in recent years we have seen a steady growth in the Eritrean student population. This is understandable when you consider that Ethiopians and Eritreans share a common border in East Africa, have similar climates, languages and traditions, and both have high quality undergraduate computer science education. There are currently 15 Eritrean students in the MSCS program, and the 2013 outstanding graduate is Eritrean. Students from both countries enjoy each other’s company, whether it’s on the football (soccer) field or in a group posing for a photograph.

Transcendental Meditation® Technique: the Competitive Edge for IT Professionals

According to Maharishi University of Management Computer Science Dean Gregory Guthrie, “The future of IT education in the US includes focusing on improving software by improving the software developers themselves.”

The unique distinguishing benefit of MUM education is that all students and faculty practice a proven technology for developing their intelligence, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and general well-being. This technology, verified by nearly 700 scientific studies, and practiced by six million people from all major cultures and religions worldwide, is the Transcendental Meditation® technique.

Personal development is key for professional success,” said Dr. Guthrie, “and MUM is unique in providing this opportunity for students in the field of computer science, to augment their technical and academic training.”

Students from all backgrounds enjoy TM.

Quotes from students

Daily practice of TM eliminates the stress from the work and life, physically enables me to take up more challenges in my work, and go the extra mile to be a top performer in my company. — K.I. (China)

One of the benefits of practicing TM for me is being calm and in control. Having a regular practice pays more than just doing it when you think you need it. It’s a process of pealing off the layers of stress one by one and experiencing the deep self. I am able to learn faster than before, concentrate better during the day, and get enough sleep at night.

My manager is very happy with my progress and with what I’m delivering. He likes the fact that I take care of myself by eating healthy, having enough sleep, and also meditating. — S.M. (Iran)

The daily practice of TM has always been useful in personal and professional life. It keeps me alert and cool. — S.M. (Nepal)

My practice of the TM technique has helped me have a good focus in my work and a less stressful day to day life. — A.A. (Ethiopia)

With the amount of time I spend at work and on my DE course, I couldn’t survive without TM. I noticed that I get tense and tired at the end of the day, but as soon as I meditate, I feel recharged. — E.T. (Canada)

Regular TM practice has helped me to remain fresh and calm at times of difficulties. I feel that I have been handling pressure in normal ways as compared to my co-workers, and this definitely is the result of regular TM practice. — L.P. (Nepal)

I have been able to handle a lot of pressure lately and able to multitask very easily due to TM. — D.P. (India)

With TM I experience more detail and a more in-depth approach to problems, ease of learning new technologies, easy focusing and context switching. — S.M. (Bulgaria)

Since the job is a little bit stressful, especially when deadlines come, TM makes it easy. — S.M. (Ethiopia)

Transcendental Meditation gives me inner peace and calm that helps me minimize stress in this uncertain time of my life. — D.R. (Philippines)

TM helps me to focus on my duties without using any external chemicals such as pills or coffee, and it makes my body fresh after a long day of work and activities. — V.A. (Colombia)

My current course is a difficult one, requiring quite a lot of time and attention. The TM practice relieves stress naturally, and helps me to concentrate while being relaxed at the same time. — S.V. (Sri Lanka)

My mind is clear, my body feels rested. TM helps me reduce stress. The practice of TM is boosting my performance on the job and in my personal daily activities. — L.A. (Dominican Republic)

Through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique I have come to understand myself better, and how my thoughts and experiences influence my everyday life. I have personally improved my communication skills and ability to stay more focused on my targets. — G.A. (Ghana)

Regular practice of TM produces clearer thinking which is important for software development. Doing TM helps me to release stress and allows me to start my work with a fresh mind on the following day. — S.A. (Sri Lanka)

I have experienced that solving complicated problems is almost impossible when there is lots of stress and workload. Transcendental Meditation helps me in such situations. I meditate in the morning before going to work, and again after returning home. Just 20 minutes of TM again brings me to the freshness of the morning. — A.A. (Nepal)

Regular TM practice helps computer professionals to be successful in their lives by re-energizing and creating more orderly brains.

The TM technique is the gift from MUM to all students. TM will help you live with less stress. — T.A. (Myanmar)