MSMS Connects recently caught up with alumnus Taylor Szasz-Green, who graduated from MSMS in 2011.
Why did you choose MSMS? Like a lot of students, I was looking for a safe place. Of course, I told everyone it was the academics and the prep for college life! But in reality, I was a pretty weird kid and extremely sensitive, and that wasn’t working out for me at my old school. MSMS loved everything that made me, ME, and nurtured it and let it grow into something amazing.
How would you describe your time at MSMS? It was extremely hard for me, but definitely the most significant experience in my life. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself before I started at MSMS. I struggled a lot with anxiety about school (I would cry during every single one of Dr. Bearden’s tests, bless her) and low self-esteem. Fortunately, I had my peers around me. If I was crying or upset or didn’t want to leave my room, my friends would haul me out of there in a blanket and make me laugh until it hurt. The academics were also life changing.
Previously I took the easiest classes so that I could put in no effort and make good grades. At MSMS, that wasn’t going to fly! But my teachers never made me feel bad or like I was a bad student. They forced me to apply myself and learn to be okay with failure. I grew in confidence in my abilities. In the end, my grades turned out just fine.
After attending MSMS, what college did you attend? I attended Mississippi State University and graduated in 2015 with a BS in biological engineering. I later got a post-graduate certificate in global health and infectious disease from the University of Edinburgh, and I am now working toward a graduate degree in computer science back at Mississippi State!
What is your current profession? Since I am working on going back to school, I am currently a community health intern with the Mississippi State University Extension Service Health Sciences Initiative. I am working to coordinate a webinar series with a nationwide reach that will discuss socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and the social structural factors, mental health considerations, and farm stress topics that affect them.
What inspired you to pursue this line of work? Well, I’ve been in health science for a while now! Previously I worked in a lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which was an incredible experience. I was working in microscopy and cellular motility, but our primary focus was on pediatric infectious disease. We did a study looking at genetic mutations making people more prone to certain diseases, and I knew I wanted to combine computer science with this work, which led to me applying to the Mississippi State Computational Biology program!
Do you think MSMS helped prepare you for your future professional endeavors? I definitely owe my career and education to MSMS. I hadn’t even thought about college in any meaningful way. MSMS also gave me the opportunity to explore life science, which is something I am still passionate about today.
MSMS also gave me my first introduction to computer programming. I took visual basic computer programming, and I realized how fun it was. It also gave me a solid foundation to take additional classes in programming in undergrad and helped sustain an interest that has impacted my career goals and satisfaction in a huge way.
Would you recommend attending MSMS? Absolutely, 100%. For anyone who is on the fence, MSMS seems so scary! Will the classes be harder? What about my friends? I don’t want to move away from home yet. These are all completely valid concerns, but MSMS offers incredible opportunities for growth as a person, as a scholar, and as a citizen. Adjusting to college was so much easier since I had already experienced communal living and a greater sense of responsibility for my studies and maintaining my living space at MSMS.
I’ve also made lifelong friendships, even though we are all scattered around the world! Our dearest friends are still there for us, even through distance; don’t lose sleep over your friends back home not wanting to stay in touch. The classes were too interesting, and the teachers were too engaging for me to worry too much about their difficulty. So don’t worry; you’ve got this. Just give MSMS a chance.