A Journey Begins


Kari Strandberg

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


On April 4, 2018, University of North Dakota student, Thomas Devine, received the news of a lifetime. Devine found out that he was accepted into Carnegie Mellon’s doctoral program in Economics, a program that only accepts three to six people each year out of a pool of eight-hundred to nine-hundred applicants. Devine had spent the previous summer at the Carnegie Mellon Undergraduate Applied Mathematics Institute in the SUAMI program, a program for undergraduate students considering careers in research in the field of mathematical sciences. When Devine left the campus to come back to Grand Forks, he had no idea that Carnegie Mellon would become his home the following year.

Devine’s story starts out with a drive to succeed and people who were willing to reach out a helping hand. Devine was homeless in high school. One of his high school teachers, Mrs. Bridget Ryberg, would stay after school with Devine for hours, helping him apply for scholarships at Central High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Devine had a very positive outlook on the situation that he was in. He described his thought process as, “When you take what you would otherwise take as a negative, and focus on something positive, you can move forward. So, I just focused on school.”

During his time at UND, Devine was involved in the McNair Program and the US Masters program. The McNair Program serves low-income and first-generation students at UND. The program helps students prepare for graduate studies by providing opportunities to conduct research and promoting mentor relationships with faculty members. The McNair Program also helps with the cost of school. The US Master Program provides a grant to students who have a financial need and demonstrate an interest in a major that supports their career aspirations in a math or science- related field. The grant is through UND and is funded by the National Science Foundation. Devine says that these two programs have been incredibly helpful for him during his time at UND, “These two programs have undoubtedly prepared me for graduate school, giving me guided research opportunities with faculty.”

Devine applied to twenty-seven different graduate programs and was thrilled to find out that Carnegie Mellon had accepted him. “Oh yeah, it’s my dream school, my number one choice,” said Devine. He created his ranking system when looking at schools to apply to. He went through each school’s website and looked at the research that faculty members did to see if it was something that he was interested in. ”I had to do a ranking system, that took a long time,” explained Devine, with a smile. One professor that caught Devine’s eye was Dr. Onur Kesten, who helped the Pennsylvania adoption exchange improve its matching process between children and families. Devine is also interested in doing work that can help others. “I want to do work that is impactful to the community that I’m in,” said Devine.

This summer, Devine will go to Chicago to do his internship at CNA Financial, where he will be working on a Long-term Care Study for the Actuarial team. After that, he will head off to Carnegie Mellon where he will begin his five-year journey towards a Ph.D. in Economics. After a long road of hard work, this August, Devine’s dream will come true.