Editor’s note: In her four years at Taylor, Tessa D’Souza '23 exemplified servant-leadership, pursing excellence and compassionate advocacy. Her story is an inspiration to be courageous in embracing community, seeking out ways to serve others, and taking bold steps knowing God is faithful. Her story appeared in the summer 2023 issue of the Taylor Magazine.
I could take you to the exact place in Rediger Chapel where my carefully crafted walls began to crumble. In a good way.
College years are intense for everyone, and mine were no exception. It had taken a lot of faith that God would provide for me to attend Taylor, and it had taken me a while to find my footing. Covid-19 sent everyone off campus early my freshman year, and by fall of my sophomore year, I was barely holding on, but no one knew it. I worked hard to build a veneer of strength and breeziness that belied deep insecurities and pain. My studies were challenging and I was struggling with learning disabilities, but the most devastating issue on my heart was a terminal disease that gripped my father’s health. I kept trying to convince myself I was strong enough to handle all the pressure and grief on my own.
I was in chapel nearing the end of the year, and as we sang the song “Goodness of God,” I knew that God had been so faithful to me and my family, but I just couldn’t see any farther down the road. That’s when it hit me: God had placed me in a beautiful community of like-minded believers, and I wasn’t allowing them to speak into my life. Rather than continue in my quest for self-sufficiency, I chose to open myself up to the people God had placed around me, embracing my vulnerabilities and learning to learn on others for strength.
That was my turning point. I finally began to feel confident in my major, Computer Science-Cybersecurity. I also earned a minor in Entrepreneurship and was in the Honors Guild. I’m not the most gifted programmer because it takes me a long time to understand things. But at the end of the day, the Computer Science & Engineering Department cares most about you learning to think, solving problems, breaking apart what’s going on, and creating viable solutions. That Systems mindset is baked into every class, and it made all the difference for me in my internships. I was up against MIT graduate students and Rose-Hulman students, and I felt prepared. Quite frankly, I was shocked at the level of competition you can beat out in the workforce with a Taylor education.
On campus, I was involved in many of my passion areas, like serving as the academic liaison for the Office of Intercultural Programs, helping faculty understand the needs of minority students. I worked in the Computer Science department, helping with publicity and recruiting new students. I found that leading and inspiring others brought me a lot of joy.
By my junior year, I was looking for something that would serve as a good transition into the professional world after graduation. On a whim, I attended the information session for the Presidential Fellows program. It would be a leadership position, a real job, and also a learning and growing opportunity working closely with Taylor’s Senior Leadership Team. The interview process was marked by peace, and I could feel God guiding me towards it. And I was very happy to get the role!
I worked with Chris Jones, the Chief Information Officer at Taylor University. One of my main projects was overhauling the phishing training for all employees, from vendor research to implementing the training. It was so great to work on a project that helps the entire university be safer and more secure. I also worked on the LMS task force, produced tech training videos and resources, and helped in other support capacities. I think it’s fun to help people understand some of the “magic” technology can do.
Another vital part of the Presidential Fellows program involved hosting advisory groups, like the Board of Trustees, Board of Visitors, Parent’s Council, and others. I enjoyed meeting so many distinguished Christian leaders, special dinners, and President Lindsay Live events. I also got to travel to Georgia to meet with Christian CEOs and CFOs from major corporations, a group of Christian women business leaders, and to host a major advancement event.
It was all amazing preparation for my next great adventure! I was fortunate to be offered a job with a defense contractor in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area to do vulnerability research and offensive cybersecurity work for the United States military and government clients. I’m excited to use the skills I’ve acquired to do meaningful work in the ever-evolving cybersecurity field.
United in Christ
There are many aspects of Taylor I’ll be taking with me. Being in a community where people are united in Christ makes it so much easier to be united about other things. We’re here to learn and we’re here to grow, but we do it together. Everything is done for the building up of the church and one another.
And I’ll never forget watching World Cup matches in the TSO office with so many people who loved soccer as much as me. Or the little residence hall traditions that are just so quirky and niche but served to bond us together.
One person who made all the difference for me in those first two difficult years was Ken Taylor, who is now retired but was the Disability Services director. His top priority was not to just help us pass our classes, but for us to understand how loved we are and how much God cared about us, regardless of how we were performing in class. Each day, he would walk around campus praying for the students he was working with. He had assigned a tree to each student, and as would walk past the trees, he would pray for us by name. For me to know that I was being prayed for multiple times a day was just an amazing gift, and it’s a debt of gratitude I can never repay.
Serving a Faithful God
My last chapel as a Taylor student was also Jon Cavanaugh’s, our longtime campus pastor. As a beautiful bookend to my time at Taylor, our voices raised together in singing “All my life You have been faithful. All my life You have been so, so good…”
By God’s grace, my father is in remission, and he and my mom watched me graduate. I don’t know how long we will have with him, but I know – I know – that we serve a faithful God.