GS Student and Air Force Veteran Earns Prestigious Google Scholarship

Dennis Zhao received the 2016 Google Student Veterans of America Scholarship.

Dennis Zhao is one of only eight recipients of the 2016 Google Student Veterans of America (SVA) Scholarship. He received $10,000 to use toward his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in computer science, as well as an invitation to participate in the Google Scholars’ Retreat at the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters, which he took part in this past June.

The Google Scholars' Retreat provides an opportunity to network with fellow computer science students from North America, and to learn about their interests, current projects, and goals. Through a series of panels, breakout sessions, and workshops, scholars interact with a diverse team of Google engineers, who introduce them to Google's many initiatives and hiring practices.

“It was truly inspirational to be among some of the brightest minds in the computer science field. It pushed me to hone my own skills and stimulated an intellectual curiosity toward solving societal problems through computer science,” Zhao said.

Dennis was born in China, but his family immigrated to New York City when he was three years old, and he grew up in Queens. Before enrolling at the School of General Studies, Zhao served four years in the United States Air Force as a cyber systems operator. Following basic training, he was educated in databases, networking, server management, and network security before his deployment to the Network Control Center at Osan Air Base in South Korea. There Zhao was responsible for maintaining network access on the South Korean peninsula, safeguarding the network against malicious hackers.

Now a rising junior at GS, Zhao is double-majoring in computer science and East Asian studies. He serves on the General Studies Student Council as Vice President of Communications and sits on Columbia's Interschool Governing Board, which represents and serves undergraduate and graduate student groups that are fundamentally interschool in nature.

“GS's continued support for veterans, and for veteran organizations at our University like the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University, paved the way for me to discover this scholarship,” Zhao said.