From Classroom to Lab to Soccer Field: Jared Mejia ’22 Excels

Jared Mejia '22

When it comes to talking about Jared Mejia ’22 as a student and athlete, it’s hard for his research advisor and his soccer coach to not rely on only superlatives.

But it wasn’t until graduation weekend that most people in his life realized the extent of his accomplishments. At Commencement on May 15, Mejia was recognized as one of seven graduating seniors who received the Rena Gurley Archibald High Scholarship Prize, an award for the highest rank in scholarship in the class.

“My parents were mad at me that I didn’t let them know ahead of time. I wasn’t even sure myself. I was definitely surprised,” says Mejia, a computer science major and mathematics minor who hails from Redwood City, Calif.

“Jared is the person I want leading the way. He has everything you’d want. He’s got the technical abilities. He has an amazing moral and ethical compass. I could not craft somebody better for leading the way in the future,” says Assistant Professor of Computer Science Anthony Clark, who served as Mejia’s research advisor.

Mejia also garnered success on the Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team. This past season, Mejia served as one of the captains and earned his place on First Team All-SCIAC.

Bill Swartz, coach of the men’s soccer team, says, “I’ve been impressed with a lot of our students over my years, but Jared stands out. His character is impeccable. He’s a role model because he lives what a student-athlete should be in our colleges. He’s quiet, but when he speaks, it speaks volumes.”

In deciding to attend Pomona, Mejia knew he wanted a school where he could play soccer and be challenged academically. But he didn’t know what he wanted to study or what career path he would pursue. Early on, he took classes in psychology, economics, philosophy, media studies and math, to name a few. Recognizing the practical use of being able to code, he included a few computer science courses in his schedule.

Initially, he “dreaded the thought of becoming a programmer monotonously coding all day and playing the role of another cog in the machine,” Mejia says. But as he delved deeper, he realized computer science was much more than he had thought. “It was problem solving, discovery and the opportunity to redefine what is possible,” he says. “Rather than a standalone discipline operating strictly within a vacuum, the field impacts the lives of the masses and is interwoven with numerous other areas of study.”

According to Mejia, Pomona computer science faculty emphasize the importance of creating technologies that will help people while minimizing the adverse effects these technologies can have.

He adds that when it comes to emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, there is a great need for developers to be conscious of systematic bias implicitly embedded into the data as well as an understanding of social, racial and economic issues.

“The liberal arts education has equipped me well to engineer solutions to a variety of real world problems while paying close attention to these intricacies and preventing the perpetuation of historical inequities,” Mejia says.

Clark adds, “Jared did the hard stuff. He will read the really dense research papers. He’ll slow down to talk about, should we be doing this? Is it ethical?”

In the midst of his classes and conducting research, playing on the soccer team helped Mejia on the academic front, he says. Soccer taught him hard work and gave him a break from studying. Additionally, it provided him with a built-in community of mentors and other students trying to balance academics and athletics.

In the fall, Mejia will head to Carnegie Mellon University for a master of science in machine learning. After that, he will consider earning a Ph.D. or going directly into industry.

“I can picture him doing anything—leading a company or being a professor and teaching students. He could do anything,” says Clark.