John D. Hastings, Ph.D.

Holly Esquivel of Lincoln,  who is a University of Nebraska at Kearney senior majoring in computer science, has received an honorable mention in the national  Computing Research Association’s (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Award competition.
The CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Award is presented to students across the nation who show research potential in the computing field. Applicants for the award must be nominated by two faculty members and recommended by their department chair.
Nominees are judged based upon the quality of their research, as well as their academic performance and community service.
An honors student, Esquivel is president of the UNK Association for Computing Machinery, and she is a fellow in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. Her memberships include Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, as well as the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.
Esquivel said she chose computer science as her major because she likes challenges.
“I wanted a field that was constantly changing, and I really like math and science. I like a challenge, and I think it’s fun to try to accomplish something that no one else has,” Esquivel said.
After graduating from UNK, Esquivel said she plans to attend graduate school, and although she has earned numerous awards, she said she still has “room for learning.”

“I have a few areas of specialty, but honestly, I know I have a lot to learn. I do hope, though, that I have a lot of the skills to be successful in the long run,” Esquivel said.
Esquivel was one of only 53 students in the nation to receive an honorable mention in conjunction with the Outstanding Undergraduate Award. She is the second UNK student in three years to receive this honor, and she attributed part of her success to her education at UNK.

My professors and adviser, Dr. John Hastings, have done a tremendous amount for me, and I really can’t thank them enough. They’ve given me hope, guidance and insightful ideas, whenever I needed anything. They have helped prepare me for what I want to do – research,” Esquivel said.

In addition to the Outstanding Undergraduate Award, Esquivel was selected earlier this year for another CRA honor, the CRA-W Distributed Mentor Program, which is a highly selective computer science mentoring program. She was one of only 45 students in the nation selected from among more than 225 applicants for the computer science research opportunity.
As a winner of two competitive national awards, Esquivel has sound advice for other students who are thinking about competing on a national playing field. “Be yourself. Do what you are passionate about and make something of it. It’s all about showing that you can make a difference in some way by being who you are and what you’re interested in,” Esquivel said.