Craig Disselkoen

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San Diego, California

Favorite spot

The music building. Even though I wasn't a music major, I very much enjoyed being a part of a variety of music groups at Dordt.

Scholarships I received

  • Distinguished Scholar Award
  • Percussion scholarship
  • Viss Mathematics and Science Scholarship

Favorite class

Problem-Solving Seminar: an upper-level math class. The class culminated in taking the Putnam Exam, one of the premier math competitions for undergraduates.

A concept that blew my mind

The class Microprocessors and Digital Logic. This class took a deep look at how digital circuits work, starting with fundamental logic gates and eventually building up to a full computer processor. It was amazing to me to see all the complexity that goes into a computer. After I graduated, I worked at Dordt for a year as a Research/Teaching Assistant, and I had the privilege to go back and modernize the lab curriculum for this same class.

Who I was when I came to Dordt

I was eager to learn. I was excited to be at a place where not only I could take classes in exciting topics not available in high school (computer engineering!), but I could also develop my interest in music through ensembles and lessons, even as a non-music major. I was also a little anxious about making friends. However, I quickly found a group of close friends who became my roommates for my time at Dordt.

How Dordt impacted me

Dordt weaves a Christian worldview through all of its teaching. Even in engineering classes, we about how our faith affects our view of technology. Dordt also wholeheartedly embraces the idea that you don't have to be a pastor or missionary to further the kingdom of God: nurses, teachers, and even engineers can all do this in their own individual careers.

Cool things I did

Through Dordt, I was able to participate in two summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs: at Iowa State University and at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. After graduating, I got to work with Dr. Nathan Tintle in his research in bio statistics at Dordt. These research experiences were extremely valuable to me: both in helping me explore my career path and also as crucial resume builders (PhD programs prize undergraduate research experience).

Some of my best memories at Dordt are from my participation in music ensembles. Dordt's Concert Band and Concert Choir do tours every year, performing in places all over the nation (and Canada, and sometimes even in Europe!). I also participated in Dordt's top-notch student-led worship teams, and I had a work-study job playing piano as an accompanist for voice and instrumental students and assisting with student recitals. The fact that all of these opportunities are available even to non-music majors is something that really makes Dordt stand out to me.

I was also part of a group of a dozen or so students that went every Sunday to a local nursing home to sing hymns with the residents. Some of them would sing along and still knew all the words to all the old hymns by heart. I'm not typically a crier: I didn't cry at graduation, at my last musical concerts, or at saying goodbyes to friends and professors. But that last day of Sunday singing with the residents of Royale Meadows nursing home brought tears to my eyes.

Where I am now

I was accepted into the computer science PhD program at the University of California, San Diego - one of the top programs in the nation. I primarily do research: I recently presented a paper at the 2017 USENIX Security Symposium, a conference on computer security.

What I would tell prospective students

Dordt's small size is an advantage. Not only does it mean small class sizes (more personalized experiences), but it also means that you can be involved in more things—sports, music, clubs, etc.—without dedicating all of your time to them. Dordt is a place that truly takes Christianity seriously and challenges you to think about how it affects your life: not only on Sundays, but throughout your professional career. That’s a rare thing to find.