Vamshidhar Kommineni is an Electrical and Computer Engineering alum of the University of Illinois. Since graduating in 2003 he has built a career at Microsoft, advancing from systems engineering to be the software design engineer and program manager he is today. He attributes much of that success to his education from the U of I’s College of Engineering. Not long removed from his own college years, Kommineni is already paying it forward by supporting his alma mater.
The Professor N. Narayana Rao Scholarship
In 2011, Kommineni established the Professor N. Narayana Rao Scholarship – an undergraduate scholarship awarded by the ECE department. By endowing a scholarship, Kommineni is directly contributing to the education of future students. It’s a gesture that he himself benefited from when he was an undergraduate, having received the Napier Award, the Henry O. Koehler Memorial Scholarship, and the James M. Henderson Fellowship.
What Makes an Education
Kommineni wants the recipient of the scholarship to take advantage of the opportunities that campus life and the school have to offer. “What I would have a student take from their time here, whether they were a scholarship recipient or not, is to make sure they made the most of it.” He wants students to graduate having absorbed everything they could – learning not just from coursework but from the relationships they forged and the lessons learned outside the classroom. The skills gained from leading a social or volunteer organization can be just as valuable as those gained from an internship or undergraduate research. “Being able to build a well rounded education is what I hope people take away from their time here at Illinois.”
When Kommineni looks back at his own time at the University, what he remembers best are the people. Coming to school as an international student he felt at home within just a few short months thanks to the warm personalities here in Illinois. “People here in the Midwest are very friendly and I think the University sort of embodies that…It’s certainly something I feel is unique about Illinois, how such a friendly family atmosphere exists in spite of the College of Engineering being one of the largest in the country. It still feels like a place where, as a student, you can get the help that you need.” For Kommineni his education was ultimately built upon the efforts of faculty and fellow students. “I think having that great set of people in the ECE and CS departments was my top memory of being at the U of I and why I would recommend students attend Illinois.”
Professor Rao: A Mentor
There was one professor in particular that Kommineni saw as a mentor – Professor N. Narayana Rao. While Kommineni never took a class with Professor Rao, he was the teaching assistant in Rao’s Fundamentals of Electromagnetics class. In spite of being an associate head for the ECE department, Kommeneni always found Rao’s door open. Kommineni was taken with the passion that Rao brought to his career and to education, and appreciates to this day the time Rao took to chat with him about anything from classes to shared interests. When Kommineni decided that he wanted to give back to the University, he looked to do so in a way that honored his role model. “I wanted some way of saying thanks to him, and some way of expressing my gratitude to both him and to the department in a way that paid it forward to future generations of students. It seemed like the best way to do that was to endow a scholarship honoring his name [so] that students in the future who received the scholarship would know about Professor Rao.”
A Personal Thank You
Junior ECE student Zeqiu Wu was one of two recipients of the Rao Scholarship for the 2012-2013 year. After frequenting the Dean’s List and at her internship as a software engineer in San Jose, California, Wu was rewarded for her efforts. “I remember when I received the email I felt great, I didn’t care about the amount of money I got, I treated it like an honor.” After receiving the Rao scholarship school has changed for Wu, but the impact has been less on her wallet and more on her attitude. ” I think the main difference is that it made me feel more confident in my major study which definitely gave me more passion and drive for success.” Wu hopes that those endowing the scholarship continue to aid deserving students. “I hope they continue to seek excellent students to encourage them and help them achieve a better future.” Wu has an internship with Goldman Sachs this summer, and after graduating she plans on getting her Masters in financial engineering and pursuing a career thereafter in industry.