Finding Common Ground

A recent grad credits Muhlenberg for allowing her to pursue all her interests—technologic, artistic and athletic.

By: Mike Falk  Friday, June 1, 2018 03:43 PM

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Shana Joseph '18 graduated from Muhlenberg with honors in studio art and computer science.

The theme for Muhlenberg College’s 170th Baccalaureate service was “Finding Common Ground,” and the student artist who supplied the picture for the cover of the program did just that in two seemingly dissimilar majors.

Shana Joseph ’18 recently graduated from Muhlenberg with honors in studio art and computer science. Her classmates had evidence of her work in their hands at the Baccalaureate service, and they could soon have another on their phones.

As part of her computer science Culminating Undergraduate Experience (C.U.E.), Joseph worked on an app, Party DJ, that would allow partygoers to collaboratively choose what music to hear. In addition to the coding, Joseph used her creative side to design the logo and graphics for the app (right).

If you want to creatively explore your interests, no matter how diverse they may be, there's a college for that.

“A few weeks ago, President [John] Williams asked some of us why we chose Muhlenberg, and I remember saying that I felt like I could be able to do so many things that I wanted to do,” says Joseph. “I definitely was able to do that.”

Soon after coming to Muhlenberg from Brooklyn, New York, Joseph knew she wanted to major in computer science. The art piece of it grew out of a couple of introductory digital photography classes she took in her first few semesters.  

I did more of the art part when I went abroad [to Australia in the fall of her junior year] and a lot of the computer science here, but then I found ways to incorporate both of them into my work,” she says. “That’s why this app is pretty exciting, because I get to design as well as code for it.”

Working with Wescoe School student Mike Kovach ’18 and under the direction of Clif Kussmaul, associate professor of computer science, Joseph expanded on a project that she had started in her Software Engineering class during the first semester of her senior year and plans to continue to develop.

“It’s kind of like everyone’s the DJ,” she explains. “You have one person who’s the host. Everyone else gets to search the songs in Spotify and add it to a queue that’s at the party, and they get to vote on what they want to listen to. Based on those votes, the songs get altered, and that way what most people want to listen to is what’s going to get played next.”

And Joseph's photo—which was taken during her Spring Break trip to Iceland—was what most people wanted to see on the cover of the Baccalaureate program: A student committee headed by interim College chaplain John Gorder selected the image from a pool of submissions by senior art students.

That picture (left), titled “The Verge Of,” is part of one section of a larger panoramic image.

“When I see it, it kind of reminds me of being on the edge, or you could be almost done, or you’re about to do something else,” says Joseph, who assured us that the girl walking across the natural bridge was on solid footing and in no danger of falling into the water. “It reminded me of balance as well. Out of all the photos I had, it seemed like it fit.”

Joseph, who had more of her photos on display in the Martin Art Gallery as part of the senior thesis exhibition in the weeks leading up to Commencement, knows all about balance. In addition to her two majors, she was a four-year sprinter on the Muhlenberg track and field team. She also participated in Prep for Prep, a leadership development program based in New York City that offers promising students of color access to a private school education.

“It was a lot of work, and I didn’t have that much free time,” she says. “But I feel like it’s rewarding, and I’m really happy with the way things turned out.”

Joseph will look to continue finding common ground in all her interests when she begins work on her master’s in Carnegie Mellon University’s entertainment technology program this fall. Although she’s not sure exactly where she’s headed, she knows she has the solid foundation that Muhlenberg provided her.

“I grew and I kept growing,” says Joseph of her time at Muhlenberg. “There’s so much that happened here. It was challenging, but everything I did wound up being worth it.”