During her four years as an undergraduate student, Erin Kocis, of Vienna, Virginia, a business information technology major with minors in computer science and economics, has been a consistent academic achiever and dedicated community leader.

Now, the Pamplin College of Business is honoring Kocis as 2018 Outstanding Senior.

An internship at Appian in Reston, Virginia, last summer has led to a full-time job as a software engineer for Kocis after graduation. “I couldn’t be more excited to start my career at such a fantastic company. The culture at Appian is one of openness, collaboration, encouragement, and innovation, and I can see myself thriving in that environment,” said Kocis, who is also a student in the university’s Honors College and has an overall GPA of 3.9.

“Later in my professional career, I hope to move into a position that allows me to combine both my passion for interpersonal relationships and my technical background to bridge the gap between engineers and upper-level managers who might not have a good understanding of what goes into the products from a backend perspective,” Kocis said.

She has held a number of other internships while attending Pamplin, “all of which have been incredibly impactful to my college experience,” she said.

One of them allowed Kocis to meet a personal challenge to step outside her comfort zone. For three months, she lived alone in Chiavenna, a town in Northern Italy, working for a tourism department where she was able to practice and develop her Italian language skills.

“I learned so much about myself and the world by immersing myself in a culture that is foreign to my own,” said Kocis. “One of the coolest experiences I had was being the English-speaking representative for the Chiavenna team at World Expo in Milan in 2015, themed ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.’”

That experience, along with the opportunity to study abroad at Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, as part of the Presidential Global Scholars Program (she has served as an ambassador for the program), sparked her interest in other cultures, a thirst for adventure and exploration, and a desire to travel for the rest of her life.

Virginia Tech’s focus on service was a major factor in drawing Kocis to the university because, she said, helping others is a passion of hers. 

Another internship gave her the opportunity to work on a summer program serving first to sixth grade students from families with limited resources. “I worked alongside a team of other college students to teach and support these children, and the experience was truly life changing,” Kocis said.

Kocis and a friend started a group in Blacksburg, Sweet Charity, organizing bake sales at information booths to raise money and awareness for specific international organizations such, as Next Generation Nepal, an affiliation inspired by the common book for their freshman year, “Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal.”

She has also helped organize fundraising events for the Intellectual Disabilities Agency of the New River Valley and, through the Honors Residential Commons, has done community service at places like the Giving Tree Food Pantry and the Montgomery County Humane Society. 

As a peer leader and mentor in the Honors Residential Commons at East Ambler Johnston since her sophomore year, Kocis has provided support and encouragement for some 9,500 students who live on campus. 

“This position has given me the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with my residents, my community, and my staff,” she said. “I have learned the stories of so many incredible students and loved working in a position allowing me to serve as a resource and a mentor during their college journeys.”

Kocis has been named to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and awarded the Accenture Scholarship, the L. Allen Bowman Scholarship, and the Norrine Bailey Spencer  Strong Start Award from the Honors College.

She is a member of the American Computer Science League programming team; the Association for Women in Computing; and Virginia Tech Parkour and Freerunning Club.

Written by Barbara Micale