Cara Christiansen ’17, Computer Science

Posted on July 24th, 2017 by

Cara Christiansen is a senior at Gustavus. She is studying computer science and involved in Christian organizations on campus, as well as deeply rooted in her own faith. Cara describes herself as a very concrete individual, saying “I’m a thinker, very analytical”. Because of this, one of her most pronounced strengths is individualization. Cara identifies herself as good at “seeing the uniqueness in every situation, person, thing; why is it the way it is and how can it interact with everything else around it?” This contributes to her love of numbers and logic. Cara’s dad has been a huge influence in her life, and she says that “he’s been a coach, mentor, father, and confidant”. He’s been a stable point throughout the ups and downs of daily life, and Cara finds that they are very similar, saying “he told me I might want to try [computer science] out.” As a natural expression of her analytical nature and as a result of her dad’s guidance, Cara has found a home in the computer world.

Although many computer science paths involve office settings and working at a desk, Cara wants to “do things” and truly live and serve in the world. Technology is an integral part of the computer science field, but Cara believes that it should be used as an addition to life rather than a necessity. “There’s a very realistic way we can use technology not to improve or control lives, per se, but support lives,” she says. Cara sees technology not as something we should be dependent on, but rather a supportive collaborative tool in life. She intends to engage with computer science in her future endeavors with this worldview. Within her discipline, it’s well understood that we only understand the “tip of the iceberg” of computer science. Cara continues to attempt to wrap her mind around the fact that phones come down to just zeroes and ones. Additionally, she believes that the field of computer science strives to uphold values such as security, reliability, and applicability, because often one is “dealing with important information, and people rely on that to be secure and safe”.

Cara explained the ways in which science interacts with her faith, which can sometimes worry her. “There are so many more questions in the world than answers,” she says, and it scares her how oftentimes science cannot accept that fact and continually strives to discover every answer. Additionally, Cara’s struggled with the sometimes deeply impersonal nature of science. She wishes to implement a changed, more personal perspective in her practice of computer science.

Cara has also grappled with questions of how literally the Bible should be taken, and with what extent we should rely on faith or science in our understanding of the Bible and miracles performed. Additionally, she’s been amazed with the implications that computer science has for humanity in general. As technology has advanced at record speed, Cara explained that it shocks her “how much we can make a computer seem almost human”, questioning “is that okay?”. Grappling with where the line must be drawn in relation to faith and technology has been on her mind a great deal lately. “We were made people for a reason,” she explained, “and why are we trying to mess with that? Because we can. That scares me.” Her relationship with Christ is continuing to inform her understanding of these present-day technological issues.

Cara spoke about her personal beliefs, saying “had you asked me three months ago, the answers my responses would have been different.” Throughout the last few months, upon returning from Tanzania, “I have been so much more aware of God working in me.” She describes how God is the most influential being in her life, as God constantly is challenging her and pushing her to new limits. She’s now discovered that “my identity is in Christ. That – it is who I am and what defines me, not what I do or say or think or how I act.”

Through the pursuit of her vocation, Cara’s religious beliefs have “become less about me.” Rather, they’ve become more relational. She says that “it’s not so much doctrine and strict theology, but about a relationship with God. [God is with me] through the ups and downs and questions and doubts.” Her views have become much more real in her heart, rather than just intellectually making sense to her. Additionally, Cara has begun to live her life in less of a routine, analytical pattern and rather to ask, “God, what do you have in store for me today? What do you want me to live today?” Through this change from a firm structured life to a more fluid life, Cara has learned to trust what she believes God is doing on her heart. She’s found that through allowing her vocation to be fully informed by her faith, she’s living more whimsically. “Every day you can grow and something new happens,” she explained. “I don’t know how to perfectly articulate my vocation but I know it involves adventure, joy, and whim.” She’s learned to loosen her control on her daily activities, and go where God is leading her to go.

 

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