Senior Spotlight: Sam Haines’ involvement at Rider

By  Madison Lewis

Senior computer science major Sam Haines is the epitome of the adage “there is nowhere to go but up.” Proclaiming her start at rock bottom, she detailed her ascent into success as an employee of two Fortune 500 companies and commencement speaker for Rider’s 2024 graduating class.

Haines found her home at the university through the Transfer Student Association, which she founded and was the president of. She also demonstrated her love and knowledge of the campus through her role as a lead tour guide.

Haines dropped out of college in 2017 for financial reasons. Instead of giving up in the face of hardship, she worked toward receiving the Trustee Scholarship in 2021, a full-tuition scholarship at Rider.

The Gail Bierenbaum Women’s Leadership Council, a women-led organization that fosters relationships and develops essential management skills, introduced Haines to dabble in resume writing and marketing herself with confidence. The members of the organization are paired with external mentors that are established in their fields to guide the student. Haines worked for NBC Universal as a principal data engineer.

Haines relayed advice that she received from her mentor, which she has used to encourage her peers that may need motivation.

“Out of the hundreds of rejections you could get, there is that one opportunity that could come up that changes the trajectory of your life, and that’s exactly what happened to me,” said Haines. 

In 2022, Haines had her first internship with International Business Machines, a Fortune 500 company, and one of the leaders in GenAI, according to Haines. 

She was a part of IBM’s accelerate program in the consulting track, where she was awarded for her work. Haines was offered the internship the following summer as a business transformation consultant.

In October of that year, Haines received a sponsorship from Google to go to the Great Minds in STEM Conference in Pasadena, California, which she found in a connection she made through Rider.

Through the conference, Haines met her manager at Lockheed Martin, who offered a part-time software engineering aide senior while finishing school. Following that, Haines went back to IBM for a full-time job.

Despite her extensive lists of achievements, awards, leadership roles and professional experiences, Haines experienced adversities when presenting herself the way she wanted to be seen. She wanted to be able to mentor people, especially through the GBWLC, to aid them in creating a foundation that leads to success.

“Going from a college dropout, no money, no car, I had emotional family support, but financially, it wasn’t there, to now being the commencement speaker … and working with these Fortune 500 companies,” said Haines.

Sam Haines and other tour guides take a group photo. Photo courtesy of Sam Haines.

Haines shared her story of triumph through keynote speaking as a National Transfer Student Ambassador, where she made suggestions to help industry professionals foster relationships with students and help them.

She applied for an engineering leadership development program, a three-year rotational program that could  pay for her graduate school, where she would like to study artificial intelligence or something within the data space.

Haines revealed that a potential theme of her commencement speech is “creating light in the darkest situations.”

“Moving forward, after you’ve overcome all these things as a student. … One of the things I note is to continue to shine your light through the darkness of life. I want them to find ways to continue to grow themselves and to make sure the growth does not stop [at graduation] … they can do that in a way that makes our world a better place.”

Junior cybersecurity major Angelina Messina, the incoming president for the TSA, advocated for Haines and her role as commencement speaker.       

“Haines] really can get in the mind of every senior and … express how everybody’s feeling in that moment,” said Messina.

Haines urged the hypothetical audience to introduce themselves, to start a conversation and ask questions, even when the idea of rejection and uncertainty becomes overwhelming.

“[Maintain] curiosity and eagerness to learn, continue to ask questions and build confidence, and just don’t be afraid to go for it because if you don’t, you never know what you may have missed,” said Haines.

Haines implored the graduating class to celebrate the accomplishment of moving forward and to tell themselves,  “Just go for it. Do it. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if you’re anxious. Just ‘pop off’ and go for it.”

‘Senior Spotlight’ is a series created by The Rider News to celebrate upstanding seniors on Rider campus prior to their graduation.

Related Articles

Back to top button