Alyssa Harris ′14

Hometown: Huntsville, AL
Major: Computer Science, Bridge Major in Math/Econ

Research interests: Over the summer, I conducted research in human interaction with virtual environments with Professor Sanders in the Computer Science Department. Two research partners and I created an algorithm that allows people to stand on a Nintendo Wii Fit Balance Board and to simply lean and look in a direction when they wish to move in the virtual environment. We conducted experiments in which we compare a user’s spatial orientation when they explore an environment using our method versus when they use a joystick. In August I went to a computer science conference in Dublin to present the results of this research.

Extracurricular activities: president of the Honor Council, secretary of the Computer Science Club, and a member of Kappa Delta Sorority. In addition, I have also worked in the Rhodes Student Associate Program as an Institutional Research Analyst, and as the student departmental assistant for the Math and Computer Science Department.

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

I attended a small, private high school in Huntsville, Alabama, where I took my studies really seriously and had the same group of friends from elementary school through high school. When I was looking at colleges, I looked for a school where the students shared my same priorities, and where I could make long-lasting friendships with people who shared my drive to learn about the subjects that fascinated me. I knew a couple of people who had gone to Rhodes and loved it, and my visit sealed the deal. I loved the sense of humor about Rhodes and the feeling that to my professors I would be a person with a name and a story rather than just a number. The obvious campus-wide respect for the Honor Code impressed me as well. My high school had an honor code, so it was really important to me to stay in an environment of academic integrity and trust. And the trust at Rhodes goes further than allowing professors to feel comfortable leaving the room while students take an exam; it fosters a campus where people really trust and respect each other.

How have you changed since coming to Rhodes?

I have become more outgoing and comfortable with myself. When I first came to Rhodes, I didn’t even think of running for a class-wide position, much less the campus-wide one I pursued last spring. But as I got to know professors, friends, and classmates better, I started to grow into my own skin. One of the best and most intimidating parts about college is the fresh start that allows you to recreate yourself, if you so choose. But like a lot of students at Rhodes, I didn’t recreate myself so much as more clearly present myself as I am. When I was deciding between Rhodes and a state school back home, someone said to me, “College is where you meet the people that will shape the person you become. Where do you want that to happen?” My choice was clear.

How did you first get involved with Honor Council?

At the end of my freshman year, the vice president of the Honor Council, Micah Wasserman, approached me and told me he thought I should consider running. He told me the debates were deeper than simply deciding what punishment to dole out. He said that they were driven by a more philosophical discussion of how a Rhodes student should act, what a Rhodes degree should say, and what we as the Honor Council can do to bring that about. The prospect of running for that sort of office was still intimidating to me, but with his encouragement I went for it.

What changes do you see yourself implementing as Honor Council president?

The main goal I wish to pursue as Honor Council president is the advancement of the Honor Code and the Honor Council as not merely punitive forces, but as pillars of the culture of trust and respect at Rhodes. As vice president, I ran council meetings dedicated to drafting needed changes to the Honor Council constitution, many of which were motivated by the above goal. These were approved last spring by the student body, and I am very excited to be able to oversee their institution into the constitution. They will enable the Honor Council to work more effectively with both students and professors, and will be major factors in the promotion of student and faculty understanding of the council’s process and mission.