Originally from Cuba, the computer engineering senior and 2015 Founders Day Awardee tells school girls, “I’ve done it and so can you.” Her award signifies excellence in academics, leadership and community service.
Computer science Associate Instructor Arup Guha smiled as he recounted the conversation from 2011. Then, Carreras, who was a new sophomore at UCF by way of Miami Dade College, wasn’t content with merely meeting typical academic standards.
Unable to take Guha’s Burnett Honors College class because of her transfer status, she sought his approval to receive override entry, he recalled. “She approached me and said, ‘I heard you were a hard teacher, and I really want a challenge for Computer Science 1.’ … She intentionally wanted to spend extra time jumping through hoops to take the more challenging honors course.
“She adapted really well and fit right into the class.”
Four years later, Carreras is still fitting in while also standing out. She received the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s top student award at the UCF Founders Day ceremonies April 1 where only one student from each of UCF’s 12 colleges received the honor.
Samuel M. Richie, Ph.D., associate chair, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, nominated Carreras for the award, praising her scholastic abilities, mentorship prowess and positive influence on fellow students.
“It’s satisfying to know that there are people who understand what you’ve gone through and that they feel it’s outstanding,” Carreras said.
Set to graduate in May, her accomplishments are impressive. She had compiled a 3.953 G.P.A. through the Fall 2014 semester. “I was always good in math, including algorithms and patterns,” she said, noting that her father is a telecommunications engineer and her grandfather is an electrical engineer while her mother is an architect.
Algorithms are in her genes, and her academics are a pattern of excellence.
While classroom success was never an issue, she credits her professors for helping her find exactly what she wanted to pursue – industry software development. In fact, she already has a job lined up at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., where she interned last summer. After she graduates, she will begin in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group.
Carreras is active in numerous UCF student groups, including the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi. She frequently offers her own perspective to girls in middle and high school who are beginning to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Her message: I’ve done it and so can you.
“I tell them to look at me and to look at my peers. We are obviously here. We’re doing it. So [a STEM career] is not a guy thing. It’s not about where you’re from or what your sex is.”
Carreras learned those lessons growing up. She was born in Boyeros, a town on the outskirts of Havana, where she lived before moving to Ocala, Fla., in 2008 as high-school junior. She then moved with her family to Miami, graduating from Senior Sunset High. At each stop, including UCF, she has excelled in unfamiliar and uncommon settings — a minority in multiple ways.
“It was mostly difficult when I moved to the U.S. But at UCF it has been a seamless progression. I never felt like I didn’t fit. I feel at this school we do have a lot of diversity and we do have a lot of groups that bring out those aspects. I haven’t felt like it’s been a problem.”
Carreras remains undaunted and enthusiastic: “I love my major, and I feel more confident every semester. This is perfect for me.”