Academic Excellence Award Student News

Academic Excellence Award — Magnhild Waltrina Eilers

Computer Networking Systems

It has taken a few years, but Magnhild Waltrina Eilers has finally found joy, and is content with the direction of her life. Completing Richfield’s Watershed High School took a few years longer than normal as she struggled with severe depression, and after graduating in the mid-2000s, she had a difficult time figuring out what to do next.

Once Eilers figured out who she was, including going through the process of realizing she was a trans woman, she decided it was time to find a good career path.

“For a long time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” she said. “When I finally did find my confidence, pursuing something active and hands-on seemed appropriate.”

Eilers’ father is a graduate of Dunwoody’s Domestic and Commercial Refrigeration program, so she looked the College up online and decided to enroll in the Computer Networking Systems program.

“Seeing how well it worked for my father, I knew that Dunwoody was a good pick for someone like me, who is looking for a fruitful career,” she said. “As for my program, I’ve always had an affinity for computers and a fascination with them; choosing a career where I’ll be working with them just made sense.”

Her Dunwoody performance was quite the turnaround from high school. With newfound confidence, a hands-on learning style that worked for, and coursework she was interested in, Eilers not only succeeded – she excelled. So much so that she received the Academic Excellence Award for the Computer Technology department.

For Eilers, this is both a recognition of her hard work and a reminder of how far she has come.

“I find myself moved by how much I’ve changed and grown,” she said. “I finally believe there is a way forward in which I can succeed and thrive in the world. I love seeing the proof of that in my performance.”

The Computer Networking Systems faculty were impressed with Eilers solid work ethic, pursuit of excellence, self-awareness, and academic motivation. They also said she was a joy to have in class, professional and respectful, and elevated everyone to higher abilities.

One of Eilers’ motivators to work so hard was the immediate satisfaction that comes from completing hands-on projects.

“So far, my favorite class project has been designing a website in my first semester,” she said. “It is immensely satisfying to see polished, finished products that I was the one to create, and knowledge of the inner workings of websites has helped me organize things in my personal life as well as my work life.”

An avid computer and tabletop roleplaying (RPG) gamer, Eilers also took inspiration from Maddy Thorson who created the indie video game Celeste.

“The game’s central themes of understanding and coming to terms with oneself as opposed to trying to suppress or hide was something that rang true with me. I myself only started to feel alive after I came to that acceptance and began to embrace who I am,” Eilers said. “The allegories used in the game are easily relatable to anything that might prompt a person to reflect on oneself, such as depression, anxiety, self-doubt, or, of course, gender identity. Even the sheer difficulty of the game works in favor of the metaphor; confronting oneself and reaching that understanding can be the hardest and most satisfying thing a person will ever do. Seeing the feelings I had been grappling with as a trans woman for so long portrayed in such a way helped me to understand them.”

Now that Eilers knows who she is and that she has the skills and motivation to accomplish difficult things, she is excited to pursue an IT career. She also looks forward to spending more time with her fiancé, family, and friends.