When Jeremy Olin came to Pitt as a computer science major, it seemed only logical to get a job in the Student Computing Labs. It offered flexible hours, and it enabled him to gain experience working with customers with varied levels of computer skills. Olin enjoyed the work because it forced him outside of his computer science bubble. “Having a student-facing job gave me a little more perspective on other students with different skills sets,” says Olin.
As his coursework became more advanced, however, he wanted to apply his technical skills to make a more significant impact in the larger community. “I wanted to gain real-world experience in something that could really help people,” Olin explained.
Networking to Find His Niche
Olin talked about his goals with Bob Gradeck, project manager of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center at Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research. Gradeck put him in touch with Dr. Sera Linardi, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and director of the Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation (CAASI). Linardi had launched CAASI’s Grief to Action (G2A) initiative, a volunteering platform to help fight the systemic racism laid bare by the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.
Since its inception in June 2020, G2A has hosted four undergraduate capstone teams from the School of Computing and Information (SCI), and she had the perfect opportunity in mind. Linardi connected Olin with 412 Connect, a new project whose mission is to promote and increase the visibility of Black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh and to expand their presence on and around the University of Pittsburgh campus. Olin had already completed his SCI capstone project, so in October, he joined the technical team on a volunteer basis, joining other capstone students.