MACON — Samson Alva has been living it up at Mercer University, academically speaking, that is. He's leaving after five years with three majors, two degrees, one minor and a sprinkling of computer programming titles he earned along the way. And computer science isn't one of those majors — or the minor — his majors are physics, mathematics and economics, with a minor in German.
Alva will be graduating Saturday, May 13, along with more than 450 other Mercer undergraduates. He will receive his Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Liberal Arts, both degrees will be presented magna cum laude. Alva maintained a 3.827 grade point average overall and a 3.9 in his majors.
Alva was given a computer in high school and taught himself programming, a fascinating concept, he said. Despite his fascination, he never decided to make it his career, though he did join the Binary Bears programming team at Mercer.
"It seemed like so much fun, though it's definitely kind of a geeky thing to do on a weekend," Alva admits.
Despite only taking three computer science courses, Alva has consistently been one of the Binary Bears top team members and its captain for two years. Since he joined, he's helped the team earn seven regional titles.
Alva's background is nearly as diverse as his academic credentials. He was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Indian parents. He was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, despite holding citizenship from India, a primarily Hindu nation, and living in the UAE, a Muslim nation.
Alva's parents, Jerome and Sylvia, relocated from Bombay, India, to Dubai in 1980 because the tiny Middle Eastern country was experiencing a major economic boom. Samson was born a year later. He grew up in Dubai, and excelled in school as his father built an import-export business. Alva is the oldest of four brothers and also has two younger sisters.
After graduating from high school in Dubai, Alva spent a year saving for college by working as a tutor. He applied to a number of American schools, and though accepted to a number of Ivy League schools, he waited another year because of the need for more scholarship assistance. The next year he decided to look at schools in the South with outstanding physics departments and chose Mercer.
His experience at Mercer hasn't been all school and computers, however, Alva has been involved in student groups and served as a senator and committee chair in Student Government Association and as a DJ and General Manager for Mercer Radio. He has also won numerous awards in his career at Mercer, including the Outstanding Bachelor of Arts Graduate in Economics Award and the Riley Plymale Award for Excellence in Mathematics.
Though he came to Mercer to become a physicist, Alva has since redirected his career focus into economics. Alva said that he enjoys physics, but his particular area of interest, particle physics, was too theoretical and had few technological applications. He chose economics as his career path because many of its concepts and theories are applicable to the real world.
"Essentially, I realized that physics was a little more theoretical, a little remote from any sort of technical application and I'm interested in doing something that has a more immediate impact on society," Alva said.
Alva will be headed to Boston College in the fall to begin work on his Ph.D. in economics. He will attend on a research assistantship and has also earned one of only 25 Award of Excellence post-graduate scholarships given by Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society. He also will take home from Mercer the Wallace Odell DuVall Excellence in Leadership Award, which will also provide assistance for his post-graduate studies.
He'll keep his options open, but for now he's wants to work with an international development organization, such as the United Nations, World Bank or International Monetary Fund.
"We'll see though, it is very competitive and I've learned that it is better not to make any definite plans," Alva said.
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as regional academic centers in Douglas County, Henry County, Macon and Eastman. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. On July 1 2006, the University will add its eleventh academic program, the School of Music. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South. The Princeton Review has ranked it among the top 10 percent of colleges in the nation.
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