Mercer University senior Will Darragh has a lot of passions. He loves the arts and writing, as well as numbers and algorithms. Not knowing which path to take, Darragh learned that Mercer could provide a successful way to pursue them all.
During his freshman year, Darragh took classes from math to theater in order to determine his major. He was interested in channeling his creative side, but also loved math. For him, computer science was the perfect balance.
“When I took my first programming course, I knew there was something really special there,” Darragh said. “I really think that writing code is like poetry. Writing code seems very robotic, especially to people who don’t know what’s going on, but it’s really just creative problem-solving. To me, it is that perfect blend of creativity and mathematical thinking.”
He went on to pursue a computer science major and mathematics minor, but did not want to let go of his love for the arts. After completing a required Great Books course, Darragh decided to continue on in the program, which allows students to fulfill their general education requirements by studying and discussing the works of classic writers and thinkers of Western civilization.
“Great Books was the perfect program to allow me to keep with that English passion that I had,” he said.
Now, Darragh is the captain of the Binary Bears programming team and a preceptor for Great Books. He said though those two roles are different, they have some similarities.
“A lot of the Great Books and computer science skills carry over,” he said. “Annotating your reading in Great Books is important. In coding, you write documentation about the code. It’s very much the same mindset in the sense that we have these practices to make it easy to build off your work.”
Darragh is very involved on campus. He participated in Mercer On Mission, Mercer’s Cyber Defense Team, is a Mercer Service Scholar and, last year, served as editor-in-chief of the University’s literary magazine, The Dulcimer. It is really easy to handle being so involved when you enjoy what you do, he said.
Throughout his time at Mercer, Darragh has had the opportunity to foster his passions in different ways. The summer after his sophomore year, he went on a Mercer On Mission trip to South Africa.
“I really have fallen in love with the country, mainly because there is so much work to be done there,” he said. “I know that the problem-solving we were working on in South Africa will apply to the work we do in Macon and vice versa.”
Darragh was inspired by Mercer’s work in the South African townships and wanted to use his knowledge and passion to do more. With the help of professor and chair of computer science Dr. Bob Allen, he drafted a proposal that would send Mercer students to South Africa to teach coding.
Last summer, Darragh returned to South Africa as a team leader on the Mercer On Mission trip he helped design. He said the support and guidance from professors like Dr. Allen have been transformative for his college career.
“He is a very forward-thinking individual who really looks out for students,” he said of Dr. Allen. “One of the defining parts of my Mercer experience is having such great professors.”
In the future, Darragh hopes to return to South Africa on a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and continue the work he started last summer. His ultimate goal is to get a Ph.D. in computer science education or in computer science with a focus on development and education.
“I feel like Mercer was a great place to come for someone who had no idea what they wanted to do,” Darragh said. “The freedom to take different classes my freshman year is what allowed me to find my passion. Reflecting on my years, I feel super prepared for whatever it is that comes my way.”