Southeast Computer Science Alumnus Relaunches Career at Ameren


After more than a decade in the workforce, Jesse Hankins decided to pursue a degree that would allow him to enter the career field of his dreams.

“I’ve always had an affinity for technology and logic,” he said. “I started high school the year that Google became a website. I’ve quite literally grown up with the Internet. I was excited to possess a qualification that would stop the endless negotiations that come with internal promotions.”

As a non-traditional student, Hankins was drawn to the inclusive environment and comprehensive curriculum at Southeast Missouri State University.

“While the experience and priorities of younger students varied greatly from my own, the flexibly topical nature of non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses bridged that gap and provided invaluable learning opportunities,” he said. “In my STEM courses, there was a sense of community expressed through study groups and team projects.”

During his time at Southeast, Hankins worked as a student employee at the Information Technology (IT) Help Desk and built relationships with his faculty.

“I really enjoyed how personable and engaging the Southeast faculty are,” said Hankins. “Dr. Ziping Liu (professor of computer science) was my advisor and taught several of the courses for my degree path. As a warm, kindhearted person, she was always willing to listen and help leverage my strengths. Additionally, Dr. Jonathan Kessler (assistant professor of physics) always had time for thought provoking conversations. His level of dedication made classes more engaging and enjoyable.”

In addition to the faculty, Hankins said that the curriculum provided by Southeast’s Department of Computer Science helped to prepare him for a successful career.

“The curriculum and facilities promoted teamwork and a positive social atmosphere,” Hankins said. “Having experience in multiple programming languages with a focus on fundamentals has been invaluable. I contribute thoughtful, well-developed solutions due to leveraging my education.”

Upon graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a minor in mathematics, Hankins relaunched his career as a software engineer at Ameren in St. Louis, Missouri.

Hankins said, “As a software engineer, I design, implement and maintain software tools and applications used by Ameren employees and their customers. This means that I get to make employees’ jobs easier and customer interactions more convenient. Our mission at Ameren is to power the quality of life.”

At Ameren he’s able to pursue his dream job and thrive, he said.

“I have the freedom to advance my professional development within a well-established culture,” Hankins said. “The utility company promotes a high level of independence and autonomy. The work encourages creative problem solving that is both challenging and rewarding. They have an inclusive work culture and an employee-centered focus on career development. Now I’m highly valued and get to enjoy the work that I do.”

He’s proud to be a positive example for his children and others who want to pursue their higher education goals.

“Southeast instilled a warm sense of belonging that makes me proud to call myself an alum,” Hankins said.