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Cole wins prestigious Gilman Scholarship to study abroad and lands internship at Microsoft

Kaleb Cole is about to have a very busy summer. 

Kaleb Cole, a young man with curly hair, dressed in a red dress shirt and dark blazer, stands in front of a blue wall.

The WVU Tech junior is interning at Microsoft over the summer, just before he heads to Australia for a study abroad semester at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne, Australia through the prestigious Gilman Scholarship Program. 

Cole said he picked RMIT because they’re ranked globally in the top 200 computer science programs, and Australia was on his bucket list.

“I’m going to be taking a lot of really fun classes down there and I’m excited to see what kinds of opportunities they have in a city of 5 million,” Cole says. 

He’ll be studying at RMIT just days after he completes an internship at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. 

“May 3 is my last final, May 4 I’m seeing my friends graduate, May 5 I’m flying to Seattle and May 6 is my start date,” he explains. 

He’ll be interning there until July 26 and had to coordinate with RMIT to explain he’d be arriving in Australia a week after the semester begins. The day after he finishes his internship, he’s flying to Australia and starting classes two days later. He’ll be studying there until mid-November.

Making his accomplishments even more prestigious, he is one of only six students in the entire WVU system and the only student outside of the WVU Morgantown campus to receive the Gilman Scholarship to study abroad.

While taking computer sciences courses at RMIT, Cole will complete his senior project through WVU Tech.

“I’m still in the process of selecting my classes, but there’s an AI course that I’m very interested in. There’s a class called system development and operations, something I’ve never had experience with before. I have to have 12 credits. There’s a mixed reality class with Apple VR headsets where you augment reality, an Internet of Things Class where you develop Smart Home devices and a block-chain economy class. They have a very good program there,” Cole explains of the courses he might take. 

The Richie County, West Virginia native says he applied to 72 internships last year and only got one offer. This year, he only applied to the Microsoft internship and got it. However, his internship from last year enabled him to have a stronger application for Microsoft. 

He knew he wanted to intern at Microsoft, so he searched, found a government clearance internship they were hiring for, and applied.

“I have a government security clearance,” he mentions casually. 

Last summer, Cole interned with the Joint Warfare Analysis Center in Virginia. 

He met representatives of the Joint Warfare Analysis Center at a career fair at Tech. A few weeks later, he received an offer for an internship. 

“I had to get a security clearance for that job, and this internship with Microsoft is a security/government contractor type job. I saw that internship and thought, I have to apply because it’s a clearance job, and I thought I had a much stronger application because of it. I wasn’t going to apply for any internships because of the study abroad (opportunity) but I just had to apply for it and see what happens,” he explained. 

Cole is very active on campus and says he is trying to use his college experience to the fullest. He’s involved in the SUCCESS program, chair of the American Computing Machinery (ACM) club, president of the First2 Network and ran track and field/cross country for the first two years he was at Tech. He's also part of the TRIO-SSS program at Tech. 

"I'm so blessed to be in the TRIO program. Scott, Heather and Jake do amazing work over there and and have helped me succeed from the very first day I got on campus," he says.

However, he says he’s not always been so ambitious.

Cole recently visited his alma mater, Ritchie County High School. A teacher who had heard about his upcoming trip to Australia said to him, “Kaleb, do you remember when we tried to get you to go to Orlando, and you said, ‘I don’t want to sleep in another bed?’” Cole laughed. 

“I used to be very risk averse. I didn’t go out that much or take advantage of opportunities. Now, I want to explore more in West Virginia. I realized there’s so much more out there, and it’s broadening what I think I can do,” he said.

“A big reason I’ve been able to do any of this is the SUCCESS program,” he said. “You become part of a cohort and it's allowed me to get out of the bubble, I guess you could say, and exposed me to more things out there.”

Cole also credits Dr. Kenan Hatipoglu, Chair and Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interim Chair of Computer Science and Information Systems, for helping guide him. Hatipoglu is one of the leaders of the SUCCESS program and is helping Cole through his senior design project that he'll be completing remotely in Australia. 

"He has helped me tremendously," he says.

Cole's advice for Tech students? Find opportunities on campus that lead to opportunities off campus.

“Look for the opportunities we have here to lead to other opportunities. And check your emails, he adds with a laugh. “There are a lot of things I’ve been able to do because I was the only person who applied for them.”