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Michaela Kirvan

Class of: 2022
Hometown: Bethesda, MD
School: School of Engineering
Major(s): Computer Science

Growing up minutes away from the Nation’s Capital in Bethesda, Maryland, Michaela Kirvan has witnessed the polarizing and resistive, rather than motivating, and effective, force of politics in response to societal problems. This inspiration for concrete and data-driven responses, rather than mere policy deliberations, to respond to dire issues coincides with Michaela’s professional interests in the application of software engineering to create positive changes. 


In high school, Michaela began to seek out the intersection of innovation and service as she served as a team leader in the World Smart’s STEM Challenge. Michaela led a bi-national team -- consisting of Americans and Ghanaians -- in inventing a “Piezo-Mat” which stores the kinetic energy produced by foot traffic as electrical energy in a capacitor. This energy can power small electronic devices, but if scaled, could power entire buildings.


During her first year at Vanderbilt, Michaela volunteered with Senior Ride Nashville, a relatively new nonprofit serving seniors who can no longer drive. Michaela contributed her data-driven skills as she led outreach initiatives, volunteer training preparations, and quality-of-life surveys to provide sufficient data for grant applications. Her strong belief in human dignity is reflected in this work, as she witnessed how the elderly population can often be marginalized, forgotten, or criticized for their dependence. 


In her second year at Vanderbilt, Michaela partnered with Ingram alumna, Alexis Cook, to design and implement a career development curriculum for Unlocked (now Resera) -- a social enterprise that empowers women to transition out of homelessness. During her time at Unlocked, Michaela became interested in the field of sustainable and ethical fashion, which inspired her summer project at a women’s economic empowerment artisanal cooperative in Ollantaytambo, Peru. The goal of Michaela’s summer project was to evaluate the impact that Awamaki makes in the lives of the artisans concerning the quality of life. Collecting, analyzing, and reporting data is essential for Awamaki to apply for grants, evaluate their work, and set a realistic timeline for successfully exiting the artisanal communities once each can independently run their own business operations.  


During her third year at Vanderbilt, Michaela partnered with Nashville Food Cooperative to assist in their startup campaign, specifically contributing her technological skills and experience. Michaela is passionate about food justice and is confident that Nashville Food Cooperative’s goal of creating a local food economy will be beneficial to those currently living in food deserts. Michaela recognized that many of the Nashville Food Cooperative board members were unable to focus on the critical steps to opening a storefront because they were weighed down by manually sending emails, keeping track of new members, and collecting volunteer data. Michaela used technologies such as Zapier to automate data collection, email sending, and purchase transactions. Following her Junior year, Michaela interred as a Cybersecurity Software Engineer at Capital One where she developed an internal chrome extension to detect and quickly intercept potential cyber threats. While at Capital One, Michaela volunteered in the CODERS program, where she mentored students from low-income backgrounds and guided them through a web development curriculum. 


Michaela remains an avid animal lover and spends much of her free time at Nashville Humane Association walking dogs, assisting visitors, and cleaning up. Michaela has fostered four puppies and two kittens over the past year and hopes to continue to care for animals in her final year at Vanderbilt. Michaela plans to graduate in May 2022 with a Computer Science major and Business minor. Michaela feels humbled to learn and serve alongside her fellow Ingram Scholars and would like to express immense gratitude to the Ingram program and family for providing the resources and supportive community that deepen her service to others.