Misha Ivkov's hands shook during his first college computer science exam. Carnegie Mellon University was a bit overwhelming, much different from high school.
But Ivkov got through that first exam — after that, everything was fine, he said — and the soon-to-graduate computer science major went from fearing college during his first weeks to relishing his classes and helping other students find the same experience.
"I really enjoyed taking all these classes, so I wanted to be sure other students did too," Ivkov said. "I wanted students to succeed."
Throughout his time in CMU's School of Computer Science, Ivkov made helping students a top priority, whether it was in the classroom as a teaching assistant (TA), or outside it through his involvement in clubs and organizations.
In recognition of his efforts, Ivkov received the 2021 Mark Stehlik Alumni Undergraduate Impact Scholarship.
Now in its seventh year, the Stehlik Scholarship celebrates undergraduate students about to graduate whose reach for excellence extends beyond the classroom. Awardees have demonstrated a desire to make a difference in SCS, the field of computer science and the world around them.
Ivkov also received this year's Alan J. Perlis Undergraduate Student Teaching Award.
Ivkov has served as a TA for Principles of Imperative Computation, Great Theoretical Ideas in Computer Science, and Probability and Computing. He also co-developed Great Ideas in Tech Interviews and Coding Screens, a student-taught class he described as a crash course to help students survive technical interviews.
Ivkov said he enjoys working with students in introductory classes.
"This is the first time the students see this material. As a TA, you have the opportunity to be the peer that gets them excited about it," Ivkov said. "Then, you have the chance to see them progress through their studies."
His work with students extends to the clubs he participates in. Ivkov has been one of the heads of the mentoring program in SCS4All, matching undergraduate first years with sophomores, juniors or seniors to give new students a connection with someone who has been through it before and can help guide them along the way.
Ivkov, who entered CMU as a math major but soon switched to computer science, has also taken a leadership role with Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition (CMIMC). As co-director his sophomore and junior years, he helped write competition problems, coordinated logistics and ensured that the competition was a success for the 400 high school students participating.
"At the end of the day, it's for the high school students," Ivkov said. "They get to be excited about math."
Helping younger students comes almost naturally to Ivkov.
"I have a little brother," Ivkov said. "So, I've been helping him with his work for a while."
After graduation, Ivkov will head to Stanford to pursue a Ph.D. in theoretical computer science. He is excited to continue researching how to apply the great theoretical ideas behind computer science that he's helped other students understand for so long.