Photo of Zach Turpen

Zach Turpen '13: Coding the Value of Community

By Nick Watt '13

McKendree has always been a school built on the foundations of community and unassuming service to those within it. Zachary Turpen '13, a non-traditional student from Highland, Ill., is no exception. As a Computing Information Systems major he is bringing the spirit of community service to the Internet.

Over this past Christmas break, Zach created a website for the VFW Post 805 in O’Fallon, Ill. To develop the site, Zach met with post members to determine their needs and then designed the website which will help in raising money and awareness. He then presented the website during a Post meeting and it received positive feedback. Zach then returned to the base to give a brief tutorial to some of the members on how to manage the site. Finally, he helped in purchasing the sites domain and has now migrated the site to its permanent home. “All in all it was great experience,” he said. “I’m happy that I was able to help such a wonderful organization.”

As a senior, Zach was treasurer of both the McKendree Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the computing honors society at McKendree. Through these organizations Zach had the opportunity to volunteer for the FIRST robotics competition hosted by McKendree. “FIRST is a terrific program to get young people involved with robotics,” he said. “I volunteered at the event with others from ACM and set up the fields and the electronic communications that support the robots. We had a lot of fun and I was really impressed with the work that these kids did.”

Zach testifies to his major also being a crucial factor in nurturing and combining his talent for computers and devotion to service. “I just wanted to give back to the community using the skills I’ve learned at McKendree,” he said. “As a member of ACM, one of our major goals was community service. We did fundraising for a program called “One Laptop per Child” which sought to purchase computers for kids in third world countries that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn how to use computers.”

Family is the answer Zach gives when asked about his greatest influences, “My lovely wife Lisa, my son Curtis, my mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa have all been so supportive and inspiring.” He also added, “I look forward to getting my President’s List letter in the mail each semester and it goes right on the fridge next to my son’s school work.

“It seems to have come full circle, as from an early age Zach was labeled as “the family tech support guy.” He began to develop a passion for technology and during his sophomore year of high school he built his first computer. While at McKendree Zach had the opportunity to further his skills by creating a web app card game, virtualizing servers using cutting edge technology, and learning several computer languages that are in demand such as C++, Java, PHP, CSS, HTML, COBOL, and SQL.

Building friendships as well as achieving academic success also was a key part of his time at McKendree. “One of my favorite memories is when we all take a break from writing code, go out into the sun, and play a little Frisbee on the quad,” he said. “My fellow students have really helped me get through the difficult coursework that goes along with the major, and those people are going to be the most memorable aspect of my college career.”

Recently Zach was honored by the Division of Computing as the outstanding computer information systems student and his joint poster presentation, entitled “Virtual Lab Delivers Systems and Saves Green (and We Are Not Just Talking About the Environment!),” won the original research category award in the Undergraduate Bearcats Engaged in Scholarly Thinking (UBEST) poster competition. After graduation, Zach will work in the IT Security Department at Centene Corporation, where he did his senior internship.

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