The dream becomes reality for a graduate at the end of his life

SAN DIEGO – Zsuzsanna Dianovics was 7 when her family moved to the United States from Hungary. From an early age, she remembers her mother insisting that one day Zsuzsanna would make the family proud as a first generation student.

But when Dianovics was in college in Illinois in the mid-1990s, she got pregnant and was forced to drop out of school at the age of 21. Four years later, she was a single mother with two children and was a bartender and waited for tables to support her young family. She never dropped out of college, but it became a dream that should wait.

This month, the 49-year-old Del Mar resident was honored with the Dean’s Outstanding Graduate Award for the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CSTEM) at Cal State San Marcos. In December – more than a quarter of a century after her first attempt at college – she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, majoring in cybersecurity.

Dianovics said her long-term goal is to teach computer science at the college level and serve as a mentor, especially to young women, who are under-represented in the field. She believes it is important to show girls, starting in high school, that no matter what obstacles stand in their way, a career in science is possible.

“Girls really need to be encouraged to make them feel like it’s something they can do,” she said. “It is important for them to see other women doing this. The opportunities are great, the praise is good, and so is the performance. “

Dianovics was nominated for the Dean’s Award by CSTEM Dean Jacqueline Trischman. In her letter to CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt, Trischman said the word that best describes Dianovics is “diligence”. Not only did Dianovics excel in her studies and maintain a high grade point average, but she also developed a student mentoring program, volunteered in girls’ hackathons, and grew the campus cybersecurity club from four students to 30 in during her term as president.

“We will reap the rewards of Zsuzsanna’s outreach efforts for years to come,” Trischman wrote.

Dianovics’ long hiatus in her college career came about because she devoted 20 years to educating her children. While raising two children in their mid-twenties, she met and married David Dever and together they had a third child. Dever’s career as an independent internet technology entrepreneur will take the family across the country. To stabilize the children’s lives as they moved from state to state, Dianovics homeschooled the three children until they entered college.

His hard work has paid off. The eldest son Mikel Dever-O’Neil, 26, received his master’s degree in film from the University of Southern California in December. Middle child Catriona Hesse, 24, will graduate in neurobiology from UC Davis next month. And her youngest daughter Katelyn Dever, 21, is in San Francisco taking photography classes at college.

“They all did amazing things, but they did it themselves. I just sort of pointed them out, ”Dianovics said.

To stay intellectually stimulated as her children grew up, Dianovics’ hobby was vegan cooking. She has published three cookbooks on the subject and since 2010 she has actively maintained a cookery blog,

But deep in her mind she always wanted to go back to college and she was fascinated by the field of IT, especially the growing cybersecurity industry. About five years ago, when her daughters started attending college classes at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo campus in Cardiff, they encouraged their mother to enroll with them.

With her daughters, Dianovics enrolled in Algebra 1, then Calculus 1. Rather than being embarrassed about having their mother in the same class, Catriona and Katelyn jumped at the chance to do group projects with her. . This gave her the confidence to continue on her own, despite being often the oldest student in the room.

After a few semesters at the MiraCosta campus in Cardiff, she transferred to her Oceanside campus where she started taking computer courses. There she noticed that more than her age made her unique.

“When I started at MiraCosta, I realized that there were very few women in the class. There would only be 3 or 4 girls in a class of 30, ”she says. “I started to learn about impostor syndrome. It starts in high school, where the girls feel like they shouldn’t be there. It had been over 20 years since I went to school and I didn’t know it was one thing anymore, but it still is and it surprised me.

At MiraCosta in Oceanside, Dianovics said she was throwing herself at every opportunity that came their way, including coding certificate courses, internships, volunteer jobs and mentoring programs with elementary school students during a STEM festival and college kids at a Girls Can Code event. Even though she completed her undergraduate studies at MiraCosta in 2019, she is still involved in mentoring programs there.

“I’ve always been open to opportunities. If there was something, I would ask for it, even if I didn’t get it. You can’t be rejected if you don’t try, ”she said.

Nahid Majd, professor of computer science at CSUSM, also wrote a letter of nomination for the Dianovics Prize. Majd praised Dianovics for his accomplishments in a Masters course in Cryptography and Network Security, his success in the 2020 Undergraduate Summer Fellowship Research Program, and his club leadership and mentoring efforts – all by juggling school and three internships.

Since graduating, Dianovics has worked part time as a software engineer, designing mobile applications for Impact Resources Technology in San Diego. She would like to continue her education to earn her PhD, but may take a break from her studies to work full-time in cybersecurity to gain real-world career experience. But this time around, his break from college will be much shorter than before.

“I will cherish the years I spent with my children forever,” she said. “But now I see IT as my future.”

Zsuzsanna Dianovics of Del Mar, Calif., Has been named Outstanding Graduate of the Dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Cal State San Marcos with a Computer Science degree in Cyber ​​Security.

STEM Prize winner’s goal: to show women a career in science is possible

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