By Isaiah Hudson

Old Dominion University’s Department of Computer Science is driven by expert researchers and ranked nationally for research expenditures by the National Science Foundation. ODU has fueled the passions of many Monarchs who matriculated through the Department of Computer Science. Monarchs such as Maulahna Robinson, Kelsey Marantan, James Owens, and Ray Saleh have spent their time at ODU pursuing their goals while also being exemplary students in the process. Each of these four students recently graduated with their Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degrees on May 4, 2024, and shared their experiences about research, faculty who made the greatest impacts on them and what’s next after graduation.

Before arriving at ODU, Maulahna Robinson always had strong women guiding her before she graduated from Potomac Senior High School in Northern Virginia. Robinson’s mother emigrated from Sierra Leone to America and was her guiding light in seeking a better future. Robinson chose ODU because out of all the schools she applied to and toured, ODU was the “most diverse with a mix of cultures and people.” Robinson has always been interested in how computer games and electronics were built and enjoyed tinkering with them. “I wanted to become someone who could create those things since I spent most of my life using and admiring them,” said Robinson. She found leading female experts in her program.  Senior Lecturer Soad Ibrahim and Research Assistant Professor Faryaneh Poursardar fueled her interests. “I wouldn't have the opportunities I have now without them because they both provided me with guidance and confidence to aim for goals that I couldn't even imagine,” said Robinson. Both professors at the university have inspired her to persevere in her chosen field. According to Robinson, “They showed me that in a male-dominated field, women can demand attention and respect. Their intelligence isn’t disregarded, and their value isn't based on their gender. They showed me I can make my own path and sit at my own table.” After graduation, Robinson will be carving her own path as she plans to attend graduate school back at ODU to make her way to becoming a game developer.




Kelsey Marantan graduated from Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach. At Princess Anne, Marantan participated in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program where she enjoyed taking computer science courses. Ultimately, it led to her seeking a university that had rigorous computer science courses. Because ODU is a university that accepts AP credits and IB exam scores as transfer credit it made her decision to become a Monarch even easier. “After taking more computer science courses at ODU, I realized I couldn’t imagine studying anything else,” said Marantan. “I love how versatile the Computer Science field is, and many of the skills are transferable to different industries, which provides flexibility I value.” Marantan also has a somewhat familial connection to ODU. Her father did construction material testing on Dragas Hall where coincidentally most Computer Science courses are held. “The academics are solid, with many resources to help you succeed every step on the way,” said Marantan. Faculty such as Thomas Kennedy, a senior lecturer in Computer Science made a significant impact on Marantan. “He’s a very knowledgeable and caring professor who always gives valuable resources to help students succeed,” said Marantan. “I took four courses with him, but I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciated and enjoyed having him for my senior capstone courses (CS 410 & CS 411W).”  In her last couple of months at ODU, she will be wrapping up her internship with Yelp where she expanded her professional network within the Coastal Virginia area. After completing her internship, she will be working as an Associate Application Developer at ADP in July and looks forward to “working alongside other ODU alumni.”


James Owens is from Beckley, West Virginia where he attended Woodrow Wilson High School. According to Owens, his love for computer science stems from his interest in video games. “I had an interest in learning to develop them and wanted to learn how they worked, and I also enjoyed science and technology-related courses throughout K-12 and identified computer science as the field where my interests and abilities best aligned,” stated Owens. Because he was an out-of-state student, affordability was vital to him selecting ODU. Also, the BSCS/MS linked program in the computer science department, where students can graduate with both a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in five years, was very attractive to him. His options were limited in his home state because only one university offered game development. “ODU offered me a lot in renewable scholarships upon my admission which helped make the out of state tuition affordable, allowing me to pursue a double major here at ODU,” said Owens. He was a double major in computer science and game design. Owens also acknowledges the many faculty members who have helped guide him through his journey such as his advisor, Senior Lecturer Soad Ibrahim, “and all the professors whose courses I have taken, like Professor Janet Brunelle, but the faculty member who has impacted me the most is the PI (principal investigator) of the lab I work in, Dr. Sampath Jayarathna.”  “Dr. Jayarathna has been a great teacher and advisor who has helped me take advantage of multiple opportunities to advance my academic and professional abilities in addition to providing me the opportunity to be an undergraduate researcher in his lab,” said Owens. He also admires the fact that ODU makes students aware of the vast opportunities that are open to them. After graduation Owens plans on finishing the linked BSCS and MS programs in Computer Science and plans to pursue his doctorate in Computer Science at ODU with plans to be able to take on a

research position. 

Ray Saleh grew up in Ashburn, Virginia and attended Rock Ridge High School. Saleh was impressed with the location and academic status of ODU. “Old Dominion University stood out to me for its proximity to various beaches and its vibrant atmosphere but also for the standout Computer Science department, which ignited my interest and sealed my decision to pursue my degree here,” said Saleh. His passion for computer science has been lifelong as he has always been interested “in all things computing.” Saleh stated, “From the thrill of customizing and assembling computers to the creative challenges of modding gaming consoles and crafting personalized apps, my journey has been fueled by a deep-seated fascination with technology's endless possibilities and my relentless drive for innovation.” Obtaining this degree took patience and fortitude and Saleh acknowledges the support of faculty in the department of Computer Science. Saleh recognizes Senior Lecturer Thomas Kennedy as an “influential character through his journey as an undergraduate student.” “His guidance not only facilitated my pursuit of higher education and attainment of a master’s degree in computer science but also broadened my perspectives and shaped my professional outlook,” said Saleh. For future Monarchs, Saleh speaks highly of his overall experiences, “ODU offers a vibrant community where individuals can engage with like-minded peers and explore diverse interests. The university's conducive environment fosters personal growth and academic excellence, making it an enriching choice for aspiring students.” He plans on coming back to ODU to complete his Master of Science degree with plans to become a software engineer.


Monarchs such as Maulahna Robinson, Kelsey Marantan, James Owens, and Ray Saleh have a plethora of experiences and support at ODU to help them achieve their various set goals. These Monarchs accomplished so much during their time and have proven that innovation and drive are at the heart of the Department of Computer Science program at ODU.