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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


More than just brains: PLU grad strikes balance while winning a few bucks

Andy Nierman '96
Andy Nierman '96

By Noreen Hobson '99

Andy Nierman '96 is more than just the "computer nerd" that his computer science degree might lead people to believe. At PLU, he was an honored tennis player and strong student-athlete. While in the Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, he has succeeded in competitive TopCoder computer programming competitions, played at the national Ultimate Frisbee competition and boxes for the university.

The TopCoder competition meant accomplishing what 7,000 other participants could not. Twenty-five thousand dollars accompanied the prestige Nierman earned in the finals of the programming event. The tournament involves solving three programming problems of varying difficulty and finding problems with other contestants' submissions. For the best score, problems must be solved quickly and, of course, correctly. His winnings were well-spent. "I paid off some bills, went to Hawaii for my honeymoon in July, and invested the rest."

Nierman can trace his ancestry back to Benjamin Franklin. "Benjamin Franklin did both (reading and writing), and I will probably do neither, " said Nierman, responding to Franklin's quote. "But I still have hope that I won't be forgotten the instant that I am dead. I imagine my mark will be of less national importance, and more on a personal level with those that I interact with. I see teaching as a great way to make this positive difference in many people's lives."

His Michigan path may lead him into other classrooms in the future. Teaching is a primary reason for earning his doctorate, maybe even returning to the Northwest, "to work at a small college that emphasizes teaching-so PLU would be a great place to be."

The Yakima native took part in many PLU activities, "learning to program computers, playing tennis and intramurals, playing violin in the symphony, and participating in various religious groups and activities," he recalls. "My exceptional memories revolve mainly around spirituality and growing in my faith. I was probably most affected by the strong community of Christians (students, coaches and faculty) at the university."

While the challenges for this multi-talented, multi-tasking alum continue, Nierman rises to the occasion.

"I think the biggest challenge is actually balancing all of the activities that I participate in," Nierman said. "Pulling an 'all-nighter' to study for an exam is not a good idea right before a tennis match."

At Michigan it's Ultimate Frisbee and boxing schedules that he maintains alongside schoolwork. He may seem to over-commit, but perhaps his success demonstrates what being well rounded is all about.

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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