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JFK Award and 29 Who Shine Spring 2019Posted on: April 22, 2019
Kristen Laird, a senior computer science major, is this year’s winner of both the 29 Who Shine Award and the JFK Award. Kristen is the first computer science student to win the JFK Award, and she is the second student in the school’s history to win both awards. The governor presents one outstanding graduate from each Massachusetts public college who shows exceptional promise as a future leader with the 29 Who Shine Award. The JFK Award is UMass Boston’s most prestigious commencement award, honoring both academic excellence and community service.
Like many of UMass Boston’s students, Kristen followed a nontraditional academic path. As she shared in Microsoft's blog, she overcame struggles with mental health, volunteered at a fire department, and went on to work in healthcare before finally deciding to study computer science. She is a two-time recipient of the Oracle Undergraduate Research Fellowship, member of UMB's high performance computing competition team, former research assistant in the Graphics and Virtual Environments lab, three-time Microsoft intern, CPR and first aid instructor trainer, and mentor for underrepresented students in tech. Kristen is passionate about mental health and LGBTQIA+ advocacy, helping other students succeed in tech careers, and redefining the societal and ethical implications of technology. After graduation, Kristen will join the Microsoft AI Development Acceleration Program in Boston as a Program Manager.