Henry Merrilees came to Blair as a postgraduate student in the fall of 2020 to focus on and think more in depth about what he wants to do in college. And now that it’s March, and graduation is near, Henry has found the closure he was seeking regarding what he hopes to study in college.
Before coming to Blair, Henry was confused about his potential major because he wanted to study Computer Science, but he was skeptical about the field. Unlike many aspiring CS majors, Henry did not want to follow the stereotypical trajectory of moving to a big software company and writing lines of code to improve random, basically useless websites. He wanted to code and use computers to meaningfully enrich people and strengthen their communities on a large scale.
One example that shows Henry’s love for using softwares to bring attention to community and social issues was a project he did in February of 2020 on a Chicago-based bike rental system. He compiled the trips of Chicago’s Divvy Bike users on an online map and showed that the average user traveled through majority white, wealthy neighborhoods, and that only one (20 mile!) trip went through a majority African American neighborhood. Henry posted his compiled information on his website and showed it to Chicago open transit nonprofits in hopes of sparking awareness of this divide.
After spending his postgraduate year pondering college and looking at issues such as the demographic usage of Chicago Divvy Bikes, Henry concluded he does want to study computer science in college but he would like to fuse it with the humanities so he can keep learning more about social issues. He is not sure exactly which types of humanities he will study yet, but Henry is excited that he now knows he wants more of a liberal arts education rather than a STEM-only education.
After graduating from college, Henry hopes to move back to Northern Illinois, specifically the Chicago area, where he grew up. This aspiration may change, though, because he also sees many European countries as appealing because they seem more accepting and open-minded to him. Wherever he lives, Henry nevertheless hopes to use his education and platforms to speak out for those who are less able to, and he hopes to shed to light on issues pertaining to struggling communities in the hopes of creating a brighter future.
(Copyright Sid Mehta 2021)