A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
I T Y
U M M E R 2 0 0 2
More than just brains: PLU
grad strikes balance while winning a few bucks
By Noreen Hobson '99
Andy Nierman '96
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
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.