On his ﬁrst tour of UC Merced almost five years ago, Andy Luhrs decided the campus was the right place for him.
“The tour guide made an impression,” said Luhrs, who is from Danville. “Everyone I met had a good vibe — open and passionate about the school.”
As he heads towards graduation on May 18, Luhrs still knows where he’s headed. In July, he reports to Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. as a program manager. He will be working for the Windows division, but he isn’t exactly sure what his responsibilities will entail yet.
Luhrsʼ path changed after he started as a freshman back in 2009. He paused to reconsider majoring in mechanical engineering as the coursework bumped into increasingly dense math.
“I started to dread doing the math-based theoretical engineering stuff,” Luhrs said. “I found that computer science is also math-based, but not in the same way. It’s more about solving real problems.”
Luhrs is excited to work at the computer software giant and he hopes to make a difference for computer users around the world. As a UC Merced graduate, he hopes to make interaction with computers a more ﬂuid experience by building upon the many advances since Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates helped to pioneer the ﬁeld in the 1970s.
“I’m a strong believer that computers are a tool to make people’s lives easier,” Luhrs said. “They should be easier to interact with. I’d like to work to make computers more intuitive and natural to use, like the direction Microsoft is going with Windows 8.”
As he prepared for commencement, Luhrs looked back on his undergraduate career as a time of exploration. Among his best memories are the university’s small class sizes and the close contact he enjoyed with professors.
He rarely encountered a class with more than 60 students. He connected with higher-ups as well — including School of Engineering Dean E. Dan Hirleman and Director of Career Services Brian O’Bruba.
“You feel like you can connect with everyone (at UC Merced),” he said. “No one is just a nameless face to professors.”
His time on campus, from 2009 to 2013, coincided with a rapid increase in enrollment and expanded offerings at the university. Luhrsʼ recalled how school pride grew during his four years as well.
A spirit of community is the center of The Gauntlet, a competition and festival sponsored by the university’s Pilipino American Alliance each spring. Luhrs compared The Gauntlet to rowing competitions that mark the calendar at some British and East Coast U.S. schools.
Luhrs competed in The Gauntlet with members of Theta Tau, a nationwide engineering fraternity that has a UC Merced chapter, the past three years and received runner-up in 2011 and the coveted Spirit award in 2013.
“It’s great to see the school spirit,” Luhrs said. “I can’t wait to see what this event grows into in ﬁve or 10 years.”