Jordan McNeill '14 and Brittany McNeill Merth '09

How has your Hood education benefited you?

Jordan: Using the technical skills I developed through course work and the communication skills I acquired while student working in the IT department, I was able to land a job as a project manager at Decision Software Inc. before graduating. Since then, I have honed those skills and accepted an even better opportunity as a network administrator at the EMMES Corporation.

Brittany: I think that a Hood education helped to expand my world view in ways that another educational setting might not be capable of. The diverse perspectives were invaluable to shaping who I am today, and I still keep in contact with many of my professors.

How did your time at Hood prepare you for your career or graduate school coursework?

Jordan: The experience I gained working with the staff, faculty and students of Hood College through my work with the IT department has helped more than anything else. I was able to get hours and hours of practical experience under the guidance of some incredibly knowledgeable and friendly employees.

The computer science professors were able to enforce a perfect balance of relaxed freedom and a strict, demanding environment. The senior project was an amazing and satisfying experience. After having experienced the nerves associated with that presentation, I fear nothing.

Brittany: After graduating from Hood, I entered a very writing-heavy graduate program at Hopkins (master’s degree in security studies). For some of my fellow students, it took a lot of adjusting. I don’t think some schools put as much emphasis on research and writing as Hood does, so having that background served me well.

How did you find the transition?

Jordan: Very shocking. It all happened so fast, and within one week of graduating I was commuting along 495 for hours a day. After a change of residency and a few weeks behind me, it became natural.

Brittany: The transition was easy. I think that, in general, graduate school has a reputation for putting more emphasis on smaller class sizes, diversity of thought, interaction between students and research. Hood emphasizes these things as well, so the culture shock wasn’t as big for me.

What were your extracurricular experiences?

Jordan: My time spent under coaches Brent Ayer and Jake Nichols taught me the most important lessons I have ever learned—by dedicating myself entirely to a goal could I achieve the results I really wanted.

It was a painful lesson filled with frustration, tears, cold and doubt. It was important to overcome these obstacles both mentally and physically—neither of which would have been possible without the camaraderie of such close teammates. Every day we struggled together, learning alongside one another that only effort can breed respect.

Every person needs an obstacle in their life to push their limits and test their character. For me, that obstacle was the 400-meter dash, an event notoriously known for being one of the most painful races the sport has to offer. At the end of a race, only I knew if I had not given it an honest effort, and only I had the power to ignore the screaming of every muscle in my body to “just relax a little,” to “just coast in the finish, after all – what does it matter?” During those final painful moments it was easy to think, “So what if I set a new personal record and maybe jump from seventh place to sixth place?” The lesson I learned was to be a better man than I was yesterday—to finish a race and be proud of what I had done. Until my collegiate experience with the 400-meter dash was over, I had never truly understood that full satisfaction comes from full effort.

Brittany: I was a commuter student, so I loved hanging out on campus with some of the other commuters between classes. Hood does a great job including commuters, which I don’t think is really the case for other schools.

Did you decide your major right away?

Jordan: I hesitated for a long time until choosing communications. After a few classes, my heart wasn’t in it, so I declared computer science as my major and never looked back. I had always been interested in gaming so I figured it might be a natural transition. It was not, but I was fortunate to have enjoyed it regardless.

Brittany: No, I actually transferred to Hood after two years at Frederick Community College. I did that to save money and because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to major in, and I took my general courses at FCC until I figured out what I wanted to do. I majored in political science at Hood, but I don’t use that at all now. The most important things I learned at Hood were actually the cultural values.

Who were your mentors at Hood?

Jordan: I didn’t exactly have mentors, but there were plenty of people I looked up to. To name a few:

Professor George Dimitoglou, for somehow managing to balance joking around with everyone one second to being a ruthless dictator the next. Everyone fortunate enough to study under him strives to make him proud. Or maybe that’s just me.

JoAnne Bodine, for teaching me all the good and bad things I know about working in IT. And for playing Macklemore on repeat. And for setting up a mini basketball hoop in the IT department. She’s awesome.

Brent Ayer, for raising a program from the ground up, for going out of his way to help his all too ungrateful athletes, and for being one of the most stand-up, honest men I have met in my life.

Brittany: I learned a lot from Professor Judson and Professor Eager, both of whom I remain in contact. I respect their open-mindedness and dedication to their students.

What is your opinion on the value of a Hood education?

Jordan: Well, it’s the only place I’ve ever been educated, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Hood has an amazing atmosphere that I was fortunate to be a part of.

What is your opinion on the value of a liberal arts education?

Jordan: I can’t see why I would ever want anything else. I loved the exposure to so many different topics, it often made choosing classes very difficult.

What would you say to students applying to Hood?

Jordan: Don’t split the polls. It’s not a joke. You actually will slowly fade away from that person. There is always someone in Whitaker better than you at Ping Pong. Join a sports team or club, there really is no experience half as enriching.

Brittany: I would tell them to take advantage of the resources available to you in the Washington, D.C., metro area. No matter what your major is, you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips or just down the road. My practical internship experience added so much value to my classroom education.

What role has your Hood education played in your career?

Jordan: Career wise, I’ve always loved IT—and here I am working in IT, still loving it! Now I just can’t wait to put my minor in web development to use.

Brittany: I honestly think my Hood education helped me to get my last job. One of the interviewers went to Hood and said that she knew what a good education Hood provided.

Why did you choose to attend Hood College?

Jordan: I wanted to live in downtown Frederick.

Brittany: Being a lifelong Frederick County resident, I wanted to stay local while also getting a great education. I love the Frederick community and think it’s an amazing place to learn.