What are CS Pods?

CS Freshmen Pods are designed to build CS community and connect students to CS-specific resources. Each student will be able to choose a Pod with a small group of other first-year students. Each CS Pod will contain a seminar which is used to teach freshmen about the Computer Science major, the College of Natural Sciences, and University.  Pods also have linked courses that everyone in the Pod take together!  An experienced CS mentor and CS staff facilitator will lead the weekly 1-hour seminar meetings on several topics from time management to how to turn in your CS homework. Each seminar will also have a social aspect planned by their mentor.

How do I join?

During Orientation, you will register for your first semester of classes, including your CS Pod. You will choose either a CS 312 Intro to Programming Pod or a CS 314 Data Structures Pod. Don't worry! The seminar class within the Pod doesn't add any hours to your schedule and we don't assign homework, so you will have plenty of time to focus on your other classes!

Who are the CS Pod mentors?

The CS Pod mentors are exceptional leaders and students at UT! All of them are Computer Science majors who have encountered many of the issues you may face your first year. Your mentors will contact you near the end of the summer to introduce themselves and to set up any activities or events they may have planned for the weeks before classes start. You will also have a CS staff member or advisor that will help to facilitate your meeting. They are an experienced contact person if you have issues that you and your mentor need help solving.


Kiana Alcala

Kiana Alcala

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: San Diego, California

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  Let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly believe that the UTCS department is one of the greatest out there (even if I am a little biased), but there is no doubt that you will receive a great education with wonderful professors, having tons of opportunities and lovely mentors and advisors to help you out along the way! Now, if I had to pick a favorite CS experience, it would be working with Professor Norman to found a mentorship program through Google’s igniteCS initiative! I think once the roots of the program really started to become grounded, I not only became more excited, but also began to feel like UTCS was my home. Starting something bigger than myself and teaching elementary schoolers how to code is such an uplifting experience and I get to work with some amazing people who help make it all happen!

Sonam Benakatti

Sonam Benakatti

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  My favorite CS experience has been my involvement with Women In Computer Science. When I first entered UT, I actually knew very little about coding. However, WiCS provided me with support and a community within the CS department. Everyone is extremely helpful and willing to help out. Many of my role models in CS are members of WiCS, and they inspire me pursue my goals. It amazes me how much I was able to learn my freshman year, and I couldn't have done it without the support of others. Overall, I think every organization within the department is welcoming, and they all provide us opportunities to be involved and get the most out of our time at UT.

Shreya Chandrasekar

Shreya Chandrasekar

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Coppell, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  My favorite CS experience would be attending First Bytes, a Computer Science summer camp at UT for high school girls. It was an inspiring environment that helped intensify my interest in the field; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was a motivational experience to spend my days with like-minded, tech-savvy female peers. We practiced C++, Java, and Python, talked to companies companies that championed technical women in their workplace, and made computer science puns. We even sang a computer science parody of “Let it Go” created by our camp counselors! In just one week, I was at my apex. First Bytes gave me not only lifelong knowledge, but also many lifelong friends.

Helen Gai

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: My favorite part about CS so far has to be meeting the people here. I've had wonderful professors and I've made many great friends in my classes and organizations like WiCS and ACM. There are a ton of opportunities to meet students with similar interests, explore different fields within CS, and connect with people in the industry through career fair and corporate events. The community here is so welcoming, and I'm lucky to be learning alongside so many talented people.

Lucas Kabela

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Victoria, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: The best experience I have had in UTCS is without a doubt taking CS314 with Mike Scott.  I was fortunate enough to have a class reserved with a lot of my friends that I made through the POD program, and although the class was a lot of hard work, the projects such as Huffman Coding were super rewarding to complete!  Plus Mike's lectures are fantastic, so every day in class was fun and engaging.  Overall Mike's 314 class has been my favorite CS experience at UT because it was a fun, engaging and highly informative experience!

Kalpana Vaidya

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Sugarland, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: Honestly, becoming a part of the UTCS family has been a true blessing. I could not imagine furthering my computer science journey than right here at UT. However, my passion for computer science really started when I attended UT's computer science camp for girls, First Bytes. I had the opportunity to work at the UT facilities for a week over the summer and participate in several talks from many women in industry. It was the first time that I knew for certain that I wanted to pursue this field. It was inspiring to hear how computer science could be used in many scenarios and how applicable it was to almost every facet of life. Now, I could not be more excited to continue learning here at UT!

Bri Vargas

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Cedar Park, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: I realized that I wanted to study CS when I took my very first programming class during my Junior year of high school. I had no idea what computer science was beforehand, but once I got started, I realized that I love the feeling of solving a puzzle with code. Since then, my love for coding has only grown, especially after joining the UTCS community and realizing how many opportunities and possibilities there are in the field.

Andrea Youwakim

Year in college:  Junior

Hometown: Nederland, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: Hi Guys! First of all, welcome to UTCS! I know things are definitely scary at first, but hopefully once classes start, you'll begin to feel right at home. This brings me to my favorite part about CS- the people. Coming from a small town, it's hard to find a group of friends that compliment your personality and life interests however, at UTCS I was able to make amazing friends that did just that. I've had really awesome professors and met a lot of cool people through my jobs and organizations. Coming to college is definitely different than high school, but with the amazing staff and UT population there are so many opportunities to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself - Don't be afraid to ask around!

Serena Zamarripa

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Palacios, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: I love the people in CS. I absolutely adored the friendships that were created through my Pod my first semester here and all the memories I have made with those people since then. From late night shenanigans at the PCL or GDC to in-depth discussions about time travel or memes, the people I have met here have helped give me a home on the Forty Acres, and I am so grateful for that. I am so excited to continue my studies here for the next few years so that I can continue to explore my interests and abilities within CS alongside some of my favorite people.