“That may seem sort of morbid, however, I believe that it is our duty as human beings to take advantage of the most opportunities, do the most good, and inspire as many people as possible in the finite number of years we all have on this planet,” she said.
Willis is maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and finds her motivation through being an innovator.
“There is a saying, ‘Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.’ I wholeheartedly agree,” she said. “I am an innovator because I strive for excellence in all aspects of my life.”
A second generation Aggie, Willis has paved her road to excellence with multiple scholarships and honors. In 2014, she was one of 100 winners of the Buick Achievers National Scholarship. The four-years scholarship pays for tuition, fees, room, board, books and other expenses. She also has received funding from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Foundation, the Great Lakes National Scholarship Award and the Burger King Corporation.
This year, she was named a White House HBCU All Star, a University Innovation Fellow at Stanford and an Apple HBCU Scholar. A group project she leads placed second in the Ford HBCU Community Challenge.
“I want to eventually impact the world through innovation, and it is up to me to prepare myself academically so when the opportunity presents itself I will be ready,” Willis said.
Academic excellence is nothing new for Willis. What was new for her as a freshman was a structured learning environment. From first grade through high school, Willis was a homeschool student.
“Most students come from a highly structured high school to the lower structured college environment, but my homeschool program was nowhere near as structured as traditional high school,” she said. “I embraced the increase in academic challenge that A&T provided and thrived early on because, as a homeschool student, I had been taught by my mother to leverage every possible resource, inside and outside the classroom, in order to learn new material.”
Outside the classroom, Willis has enhanced her experiences and applied her skills to real-world challenges with internships at NASA and Bank of America. As an Apple Scholar she will spend a summer interning at the company’s headquarters and be mentored throughout the year by an Apple executive. She plans to use the information she gains to help create new possibilities.
“Computer science plays the most important role in the advancement of humankind for many reasons,” she said. “Ultimately, computers, the internet, and data analysis and storage are now vital components to just about every element of societal evolution. I believe that the impact of one’s college major is only as substantial as the approach that this specific person chooses to apply it to the challenges facing today’s society.”
With graduation quickly approaching, the accomplished student has set her eyes on becoming a software engineer whose impact extends far beyond herself.
“I would like to contribute to ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking projects that will positively and dramatically affect the technological advancement of mankind,” she said. “I would also like to continue mentoring the next generation of innovators. We are all the sum of our experiences, and I intend on making the most of every opportunity to gain new experiences.”