Student Spotlight: Harrison Neal C’23      

Harrison Neal C’23                      

What attracted you to Drew?

I was born in Wellington, New Zealand and what attracted me to Drew was the convenience of being so close to New York City, whilst being tucked away in a forest. This is what initially provoked my interest in Drew.  Also, the astounding Semester on “Wall Street” and the Launch your Life program incited interest in future networking possibilities and the opportunity for  first-hand experience working alongside some of the world’s top business leaders. For me, this was an educational attribute I could not turn away. I also had a great connection with Richard Munson, the Varsity Mens’ and Womens’ Swim Coach and I valued the family dynamic of the team. Overall, Drew University really appealed to me and I welcomed the nurturing campus environment where I knew I could build a strong foundation for an imminent successful career.

Did you know what you wanted to major in when you started at Drew?

I have always been interested in Computer Science and I had initially planned on majoring in just one field due to my experiences with coding and robotics in high school.  However, after taking macro and micro economics, and talking with business and finance professors on campus, I realized the benefits of understanding the fundamentals of the local and global economy, and adding a Business major became a new aspiration.

What attracts you to the fields of Computer Science and Business?

I am fascinated with how Artificial Intelligence seemingly has a mind of its own and can make decisions to create repeatable and consistent results. In booming industries like Tesla, they are pioneering the automobile industry and giving their cars the technology to drive on autopilot. Although it appears that the car is technically making the decisions to turn, speed up, brake, indicate, a programmer had to code the software for the car to be able to make these sometimes life-threatening decisions. Therefore, the developers have to make sure every possible outcome is accounted for, to ensure the safety of their passengers. This extent of breaking down how a machine should think is something that really interests me and I can see myself spending hours trying to translate human decisions into programs for computers to act on.

As far as business and finance, the world is controlled by money, and money offers liberty to the people and businesses that have it. Therefore, in understanding the cycles of finance, economy, and investments, I can build a greater understanding of how the local and global economy works, so I can one day give myself the liberty to make well informed financial decisions and offer businesses an upper hand in allocating resources to different areas. Then combining finance with Artificial Intelligence, things can get really interesting by giving computers algorithms to look for trends and movements in the market. This is a new industry with a lot of potential to grow and develop.

 Do you have any mentors at Drew?

My swim coach Rich Munson has helped me a lot in making me a dedicated athlete but also a dedicated academic. He keeps me accountable for everything I am doing at Drew and ensures that I work hard to reach my goals.

 What do you enjoy about swimming?

 I am a big believer in happy body, happy mind. The better I fuel my body with healthy foods and exercise my muscles, this draws oxygen to my brain and allows me to be more accurate and engaged in my studies. I enjoy swimming specifically because it utilizes every single body part and muscle, and does not put any pressure on the joints. I have also been swimming competitively for close to 10 years now and I really have benefited from the time I have put into the sport and the knowledge I have gained from practicing it for so long.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short or nycTRECS?

I like to think I am already studying abroad. Leaving my friends and family in New Zealand wasn’t an easy decision but I am so proud of the progress I have made athletically and academically, and the new friends I have made at Drew University. Studying abroad has undoubtedly made me a much more independent person and it allows me to be more reliable because I have no one else to blame other than myself.

During high school, I was selected to be a part of a Japanese exchange program because of my achievements in studying the Japanese language. I was going to school in Japan for about three weeks and living with a host family that spoke no English, had no internet, and lived in an entirely different culture than what I was used to. This was a serious challenge for me to overcome but it was an experience that I will never forget. On this trip, I remember my family being extremely welcoming and understanding that we were both going to have barriers in communicating, eating meals, and planning schedules. Overall, we had a great time together and I got to see some of the most beautiful parts of Tokyo, and to this day, Sushi has become my favorite food.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

Coming from the South Pacific, the true effects of climate change are visibly evident in the environment that we live in.  Many islands are becoming almost submerged due to rising sea levels and as New Zealand is a long narrow country with much coastline, we see the effects of this every day.  I am anxious that without significant change and accountability from countries and businesses related to reducing carbon emissions and pollution, the effects of a changing climate will incur irreversible consequences. Many communities will suffer the repercussions.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew so far?

Being a part of a great diverse and competitive swimming team drives me to be the best I can be. Waking up at 6:00 am and meeting my teammates in the cold and dark to work our hardest towards our goals is definitely one of my favorite memories that I will never forget.

Another great memory I have connected to swimming at Drew was traveling to Puerto Rico on a training trip with the swim team. This was a grueling week of training that was abruptly interrupted by the largest earthquake in Puerto Rico for over 100 years. Up until that point we were living in luxury, swimming in the morning and afternoon, and having the rest of the day to soak up the sun whilst laying on some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. Over this trip, I formed some of my strongest friendships and memories, and it was literally a trip that went down in history.

Swim Team in Puerto Rico

Another favorite memory for me is when I got to lay under the stars on a beautiful night with some friends. Because Drew is in a forest and there isn’t much light pollution, it was absolutely incredible gazing up at the magnificent constellations and letting our minds wander into the cosmos.

How has your identity as an international student affected your experience at Drew?

Being an international student has given me the opportunity to build incredible friendships with students from all around the globe. There is so much diversity at Drew University and it really feels like there is a hub for everyone to feel a part of, no matter your interests, identity, or community.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out?

Drew provides for amazing possibilities however, students have to be proactive in finding and applying for opportunities to receive the true benefit. Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance from any of Drew’s great mentors, or professors, as they are all here with the full intention of helping and encouraging students, and leading down a successful path.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I have a dream to work with Artificial Intelligence (AI). I have always been obsessed with AI and how it is rapidly advancing every day. I believe there are still so many niche markets untapped that are yet to witness the benefit of AI and its functionality. I am really interested in eventually working in the AI industry, specifically, with Tesla and its autopilot project, or, I would love to work in AI financing.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

I am the first student from New Zealand ever to attend Drew University, and I am obsessed with fishing, hiking, and everything to do with the great outdoors!

Also, I am conversational in Japanese after studying it for over 5 years in high school, and I have intermediate knowledge in Italian from studying the language at Drew.

Posted by Yasmin Acosta
Yasmin Acosta Launch Catalyst Yasmin Acosta