A Natural Progression: Rithy Chhay ’02

Only four short years have passed since Rithy Chhay graduated from UMBC, but he is already on the fast track to success.

At just 26 years old, the computer science grad is a senior software engineer with Red Arch Solutions, a software and systems engineering firm in Columbia, Md. He’s a young husband, as well, and one of the core members of the recently re-energized Chapter of Young Alumni steering committee.

Then again, Chhay has been ahead of the game for most of his life, as least where computer science is concerned.

“I started writing my own computer programs when I was in middle school,” he explains, adding that he took several computer science classes in high school, including an Advanced Placement course. He describes his choice to continue studying computer science in college as “a natural progression.”

Chhay decided to pursue his studies at UMBC for several reasons. He liked the location, which was close to his family, and the cost was reasonable, especially with the merit scholarship he earned. Chhay’s decision was also influenced by his brother, Sinath Chhay, who graduated from UMBC in 1996. “He always spoke highly of the school,” Chhay says.

Chhay was invested in the UMBC community from day one. “I was actively involved with Greek life and Residential Life,” he explains, adding, “I worked as part of the desk staff for Potomac Hall and I was a resident assistant for two years in Erickson Hall.” He was also a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, giving him a close-knit group of friends with whom he still keeps in touch.

By combining what he learned in the classroom with the life skills he gained through leadership activities, Chhay had a solid foundation of lessons to take with him to the working world.

“Interpersonal relationship skills, teambuilding, problem solving, and time management – all of those things on top of what I learned from my coursework enabled me to be where I am today,” he says.

Chhay credits his calculus II class with Dr. Jagmohan Kapoor as being a particular turning point in his life. “I began to realize what my potential could be and what I could achieve if I really worked hard for what I wanted,” he explains. Dr. Kapoor’s class was important to Chhay’s future for another reason as well – it’s where he met his future wife, the former Lauren Boudra ’03, biochemistry and molecular biology.

Now that he’s out in the “real world,” Chhay has to use his multitasking skills even more than he did in college. He is currently balancing a career, a new marriage, and continuing his education. A computer science master’s candidate at UMBC, Chhay admits, “I’d be lying if I said balancing life, work and school was a walk in the park.”

In addition, Chhay’s involvement in the 15-member C-YA steering committee allows him to give back to the university that gave him his start. As a member of a group that is focusing on educational programming, he has been helping to organize upcoming Etiquette & Networking Dinner at the Brass Elephant, as well as a seminar on how to buy a home.

For Chhay, transitioning to the real world hasn’t been too difficult. “Life after college is definitely different,” he says, “but I always looked at college as my job.” With such a strong work ethic and positive attitude, Chhay is sure to be successful for years to come.

– Jennifer Matthews ’07
Originally posted August 2006

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