Leah Ruisenor’s dryer broke about a year ago. The UW Tacoma senior and mother of three didn’t hesitate. “I wasn’t going to call somebody to come take it apart,” she said. “I could do that myself.” Ruisenor opened up the machine and turned over the circuit boards to find they were broken. “I was like, ‘Alright, I can solder this,’ she said. “I got my trusty soldering iron, fixed the boards, plugged the dryer back in and that sucker turned on.”
The 37 year-old Ruisenor graduates June 11 with a degree in computer science and systems. “I love anything that has to do with tech,” she said. “I bought my first computer in high school and have been messing around with them ever since.”
Ruisenor’s husband is in the military, as was her father, both serving in the U.S. Air Force. Originally from North Dakota, Ruisenor has spent a large percentage of her life moving from place to place. Over the years she has spent time in Nebraska, Alabama, Louisiana, California, Utah and, most recently, Washington. “We’re hoping to be able to set down roots here,” she said.
Ruisenor went to Louisiana Tech University right after high school. She attended for two years and had a tepid interest in psychology. “I decided to take a break because that’s not really what I wanted to do,” said Ruisenor. The break ended up lasting longer than she expected. Ruisenor got married, had kids and eventually started her own business. “I would make these really elaborate cakes for friends and family,” she said. “It just kind of snowballed from there into something I got paid to do.”
Growing a small business is difficult, especially when you have to pack up and leave every few years. Ruisenor decided to put the business on hold when the family moved to the Pacific Northwest. Her husband is close to retiring from the Air Force, a move that got her thinking about the future. “I just thought now would be a good time to return to school,” said Ruisenor.
Ruisenor’s decision to choose computer science and systems can be traced to both her interest in the field and in an interaction with her daughter. “She was in a robotics class in middle school,” said Ruisenor. “They built the robots and programmed them and I just thought that was super cool. We didn’t have a coding or computing class where I went to high school. I think if there was I probably would’ve found this path a lot sooner.”
Ruisenor’s parents—both of whom have college degrees—are flying out to see their daughter graduate. “I think it’s an important thing for them to see especially after all these years,” she said. “It’s a big accomplishment and I want my kids to see me walk across that stage.” She has a summer internship lined up with SiteCrafting, the Tacoma-based web-design firm.
As for her kids, Ruisenor would like to see them go to college but is leaving the door open. “I want them to follow their own path whether or not that includes higher education,” she said. Just in case they do decide to pursue college, Ruisenor will be there to help them with their math. “The kids bring their homework to us and if it’s writing they give it to Dad,” she said. ”If they’re doing geometry or calculus then they bring it to Mom.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org