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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • James Thurlow

Student Q&A: James Thurlow

Computer science and engineering senior James Thurlow came to the University of South Carolina from Beaufort, South Carolina. Along with cultivating his interest in computers, the South Carolina Lowcountry also developed Thurlow’s interest in sailing throughout his childhood. At USC, he has been active in student government, Naval ROTC, Theta Tau professional engineering fraternity and president of the Gamecock Sailing Club. Thurlow’s academic journey will culminate in May 2023, and he will enter the U.S. Navy after making impacts throughout the USC campus. 

Why did you decide to major in computer science?

I took a computer science class when I was in high school, and it was interesting. Since I knew I wanted to do something in STEM and given how technology-centric industry is today, it seemed like computer science was the new business major. I thought it would provide me with a solid foundation for my career.

Why did you choose USC?

It was close to home and had a robust Naval ROTC unit. I grew up in South Carolina but didn't firmly align with either USC or Clemson. But USC has been a great fit, allowing me to be close to family while pursuing my career goals.

What is your involvement in the Naval ROTC program?

Naval ROTC is a program within the university that prepares students for careers as officers in the military. It's a path for students to attend a civilian college while receiving military training. Being part of the Naval ROTC unit at USC involves participating in academics, drills and naval science classes. This program aligns with my career goals and helps cover my tuition expenses.

You were also the President of the Gamecock Sailing Club. What sparked your passion for sailing?

My dad was in the Navy, and I grew up near bodies of water, which allowed me to engage in sailing and boating activities. I started sailing competitively and enjoyed it immensely. Even now, I'm still passionate about sailing and actively participate in sailing events outside of the club.

My background and enthusiasm for sailing made me a natural fit for the role of commodore (president) of the Gamecock Sailing Club from 2022 to 2023. I was honored to contribute to the club's growth and activities, and I continue to be involved in events when my schedule permits.

How did you manage juggling your responsibilities as president, Naval ROTC member and computer science major?

It was certainly challenging. Looking back, I might have approached it differently, but balancing these commitments required careful time management, prioritization and occasionally stepping back from certain roles when necessary. I'm proud of what I achieved and learned from these experiences and often relied on my supportive friends’ group and fellow students in my classes. 

How did you prioritize your activities and make tough decisions during conflicting events?

Prioritizing was difficult, especially when there were conflicts between events like regattas, social events and ROTC activities. I’ve focused on academics and ROTC as my top priorities, but I've also learned to apply for waivers for certain events and choose what aligns best with my goals.

Can you share a little about your experience as a computer science student?

It has been quite intense but fulfilling. I've been able to pursue my passion for technology and gain valuable knowledge in the field.

Which professor do you admire the most?

It is obvious that Dr. Jeremy Lewis really cares about his students and is extremely passionate about computer science. His classes are challenging, but he teaches them well given how hard they are, and I enjoy his style of teaching.

As a senior, what are your thoughts as you approach the final stretch of your undergraduate journey?

Being a senior is both exciting and bittersweet. It's a reminder of how much I've accomplished during my time at USC, but it also signals the transition to a new chapter. I'm looking forward to graduating and starting my career in the Navy.

What will you be doing in the Navy?

I will be commissioned as an ensign [lowest officer rank in the Navy] and spend a minimum of five years in the service per my scholarship contract, but plan on staying longer. I am working towards qualifying for Navy Flight School, but if I don't make the cut, there are other great opportunities in the submarine and surface warfare communities. While I won't be able to directly apply my computer science degree in the Navy, it will be very useful when using high-tech equipment.

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