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‘Prepared for the Future’

Recent alumnus excelling at Boston tech start-up

Joseph Defendre, ’24, arrived at BSU with an interest in technology but little knowledge of computer programming. He recently graduated with the confidence that he can excel in a programming job.

And the computer science major is already proving his abilities thanks to a special fellowship and internship.

“The difficulty of the computer science program really prepared me for tasks passed on to me in my current role,” said Defendre, who overcame doubts at Bridgewater State about his ability to succeed. “That adversity prepared me to accept any challenge in the workplace.”

Before he studies artificial intelligence in graduate school at Northeastern University, Defendre is spending the summer interning for WHOOP. The Boston-based company develops wearable fitness trackers used by professional athletes like LeBron James, as well as everyday consumers. Defendre works on a team supporting the company’s Android app.

The internship is one component of the Hack.Diversity fellowship, an initiative striving to increase representation for Black and Latinx people in the technology workforce. Fellows such as Defendre complete technical projects and also study resume writing, networking, salary negotiation, and the impact of race in the workplace.

The organization’s mission resonated with Defendre, who noted the difficulty of “people like us to get our foot in the door.”

Defendre immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti with his family at age 7. His classmates and a high school teacher recommended attending BSU.

“I’ve seen the sacrifices my parents had to make to get me where I am,” said Defendre, a first-generation college student. “I always felt obligated to not let them down.”

But his journey to a bachelor’s degree wasn’t straightforward. Having joined the Army National Guard when he was 17, Defendre temporarily withdrew from BSU. As he focused on his military duties, Drs. John Santore and Margaret Black, both computer science professors, remained invaluable sources of guidance.

“I couldn’t have made it without these people,” he said, also praising Military and Veteran Student Services staff. “Because of their support and constant emails and pointing me in the right direction, I was able to enroll back in Bridgewater State.”

As a Bear, he formed close friendships, persevered through challenging mathematics classes, and learned in-demand skills from computer science professors who were committed to his success.

Despite studying a different programming language than the one he uses at WHOOP, Defendre said he developed the foundational skills to adapt to any software job.

“I think Bridgewater had a huge impact on how I turned out on a professional level as well as my social development,” he said. “I feel prepared for the future.”

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