Prithvi Okade is a pretty familiar face around the School of Computer Science. Some know her as the head teaching assistant for 15-112, Fundamentals of Programming. Some recognize her from the SCS tours they took as prospective students. And to some she was the orientation counselor who helped them get acclimated in their first semesters on campus.
"Every once in a while, I'll meet someone who'll tell me that I was all three for them," Okade said. "I'm glad that if there's a first-year who's seeing me, it's going to be in at least one of those settings because I really love talking with them, being able to give them advice or even just tell them little anecdotes from my time here that might help them along in some way."
Routinely going above and beyond to help her fellow students is just one of the reasons Okade received the 2021 Scott Robert Krulcik Scholarship in Computer Science.
Named in honor of Scott Krulcik (SCS 2018), the scholarship honors an SCS student or students in their junior or senior years who have clearly demonstrated the qualities that made Scott so beloved during his time at CMU: a leader with a positive attitude, an insightful and compassionate scholar, an innovative contributor to the SCS community, and an inspiring peer mentor.
Okade, a junior from New Jersey, remembers hearing of Scott's sudden passing during her first year at SCS.
"People talk about how kind he was and what a leader he was, so for the faculty to say that they see some of those qualities in me, that's something I'm grateful for," she said. "Doing college in a pandemic is a lot about 'what's next?' You're jumping between meetings, you're clearing out your inbox, you're finishing a homework assignment and looking at the next homework assignment. You don't get a lot of time to stop and think about what you're actually accomplishing or the impact you might be having, but it's really nice that the faculty see it."
Talk to Okade and you'll have a hard time not seeing it, too. In high school, she drifted toward science, and considered studying biology and medicine in college. Before she came to CMU, she had never taken a computer science course or written a single line of code. But she did know one thing.
"I knew I was going to like it here," she said. "I visited, I loved everyone I met and I loved their outlook on their major and what they wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go here. My parents said I was crazy but they were very supportive of me."
In addition to her work as a TA and an orientation counselor, Okade also does research on an intelligent tutoring system with Kenneth Koedinger and Yun Huang in SCS's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. Before the pandemic, she volunteered with TechNights, a Women @ SCS program that teaches hands-on problem-solving skills to middle school students.
Still, Okade insists that her work as a 15-112 TA is the most important thing she does.
"Having those moments where you see students understand the material for the first time, it's so fulfilling and surprising," she said. "The more I work here, the more I want to try to find somewhere in the real world where I can teach, reach more students and expose them to computer science. I feel like no matter what I do here, I can't believe it's happening."