“I’ve always been fascinated with technology,” Gentles said. “Freshman year was a little rougher than I thought it would be. I didn’t have a solid group of peers and it was a tough gap to cover because of the math requirements,” she said.
Gentles’ academic experience improved when she joined the Sustaining Excellence in Research Scholars program (SERS) at Rice.
“SERS helps undergraduates who don’t have a solid background in STEM. We get 120 hours of research experience and we have a community of people who can give us feedback on our work. We also get tutors and mentors,” Gentles said.
Students who come to Rice with fewer than nine STEM AP credits get matched with research internships, additional tutoring and gain access to a diverse community of scholars.
“Having that entire community was wonderful. My research experience gave me a bit of confidence to continue in CS. I was wondering why I was here and SERS helped me evaluate my values. That’s how I got the encouragement to power through my years at Rice,” she said.
Gentles discovered her CS niche when she joined the Rice University Center for Civic Leadership (RCCL).
“They teach us to lead within our professions. I learned to impact my community as an engineer and I became very interested in technology’s social impact. The area of civic tech explores how government and community leverage technology to make the services they need ethical and equitable,” she said.
Gentles experienced public transportation for the first time during her years at Rice. She grew up in Lubbock, TX, a small town compared to Houston. In order to get to classes, Gentles used the transit system daily. Her RCCL project studies the impact of technology and social justice in the public transportation system.
“Houston is in the process of transforming the public transportation,” Gentles said. “It’s critical that they develop a more robust transportation system. They need to consider how it affects people economically, which is transit equity. It is important to know how transportation affects people that have the greatest need,” she said.
Gentles always helps others succeed in CS. She is a founding member of RemixCS, a group of undergraduate students who teach coding at a local high school with a large number of minorities. She is also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and CSters.
Gentles says connecting with others is a great way to succeed at Rice.
“Find a group of friends you can work with and don’t be afraid to connect with the professors. I’ve made positive relationships with my professors at Rice,” she said.
After graduation, Gentles will work for Thoughtworks in Atlanta as a Tech Consultant.