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Sean Cunniff ‘16: Formula for Academic Excellence

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Sean-Cunniff-316x376Loyola Marymount University senior Sean Cunniff ’16 likes a challenge—whether it’s solving a puzzle, writing software test code, tutoring fellow students or squeezing an extra math class into his already-full schedule. “I’ve always been into puzzles and problem solving,” said Cunniff. “In fact, that’s how my mom got me to go to preschool, because they had so many puzzles there.”

The electrical engineering major is completing his undergraduate degree this year with an emphasis in computer engineering and a minor in pure math. After graduation, he hopes to parlay his LMU education and summer internships with Roku and Jawbone into a career in software development.  A standout student, Cunniff has been on the dean’s list and earned the outstanding student award since entering LMU as a freshman. He was also chosen as a Rains research assistant and works as a teaching assistant in both Mathematics and Physics.

What’s his formula for success? Start with a passion for learning. Cunniff genuinely enjoys exploring the challenges presented by electrical engineering and says he added the pure math minor “mainly as an excuse to take more math classes.”

Next, factor in expert time management skills and a willingness to take an active role in your education. “Participation is key because, even though it’s embarrassing when you get answers wrong, initially, you absorb the material so much quicker than if you just kind of sit and listen,” said Cunniff.

The opportunity to get involved on a meaningful level was a large part of what drew the Los Gatos native to LMU. “One of the things I like about the small school aspect [of LMU] is that I get more individual focus; I’m treated more as an individual. As a consequence of that, I can have meaningful relationships—with my professors, especially, but also with my peers.”

It’s not surprising that the self-possessed senior not only finds time to tutor fellow engineering students as a member of Tau Beta Pi honorary society, but also counts it as one of the most rewarding experiences at LMU. “I really like tutoring because I like helping people arrive by their own faculties at the correct solution,” Cunniff said. “People tend to learn better that way.”

The final piece of the equation is a healthy dose of social and extracurricular activities. Cunniff cites film, truly eclectic music and, most recently, pottery among his many interests.  He also makes time to connect with fellow students both in and out of the classroom. “Building friendships and having camaraderie with people in your major not only helps you learn more about your subject, but also it makes class a lot more fun,” said Cunniff. “I think it’s really key in terms of the LMU experience.”

Incoming Lions would do well to replicate Cunniff’s proven formula—and to visit him during tutoring hours. “A lot of people don’t utilize [tutoring], but they really should,” said Cuniff. “It’s free, it’s pretty easy, and I’m very much willing to help.”