Skip to Content

Alumni Spotlight: Colton Riedel '14

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently spoke with Computer Science major Colton Riedel '14 about his time at Texas Lutheran University. Riedel is a software engineer at Google and a Ph.D. candidate in the Computer Engineering Program at Texas A&M University.

Tell us more about yourself:

I currently work at Google as a software engineer, working on GPS and GNSS (generic term which includes the GPS-counterpart systems from Russia/European Union/China), including improving smartphone performance in urban environments, and security where GPS is used in critical infrastructure (e.g., the power grid). I also started an endowed scholarship in 2021 in honor of my uncle, Russell Ray Elley, with my company contributing a matching gift.

Why did you choose to attend TLU?

I originally planned to attend Texas A&M and made it as far as registering for classes. However, as a first-generation college student I had no idea what I was doing though, and the process felt overwhelming. As the start of my freshman year approached it also became clear that it was going to be tremendously expensive, so with less than a month before the start of the fall semester I stopped by the Beck building to see what it might look like to go to TLU. It turned out to be cheaper to attend TLU and allowed me to live with my grandparents in Clear Springs. I served as a caretaker for my grandfather, who was wheelchair-bound by this time. Overall, TLU felt like a much more personal experience, and a much better fit for where I was at the time.

What are your favorite memories?

My favorite memories of TLU are ones with the friends I met along the way. I was introduced to an incredibly wide array of characters, and it was interesting to interact with people from all across the world that had somehow found their way to Seguin. Another memory that stands out is all the late nights spent in the ASC working on computer science homework, ordering pizza, and somehow having so much more energy than I do now.

Who were your favorite faculty members, or mentors?

My favorite faculty members were also the ones I picked for advisors. For computer science it was Dr. Linda Wilson. Dr. Wilson had, and hopefully still has, a bit of a reputation for being strict; assignments were always graded in detail, and she had clear expectations for things like attendance and behavior in class. Ultimately these things, especially the effort she put into critiquing all our work, put me miles ahead of students coming out of many other programs. For mathematics it was Dr. William Hager, who also had a huge impact on my education. He was always willing to go out of his way to help students and devoted a significant effort into exploring ways to convey concepts more effectively. Every professor I can remember from TLU seemed to care about students, but these two went above and beyond.

How did your TLU education impact your life?

The education I received at TLU really set me up for success in a variety of ways. When I was coming out of high school there were some areas I was kind of weak in, so the environment TLU provided helped me to grow. I think if I had tried to jump in a larger setting there is a good chance I would not have gotten as much out of my undergraduate experience. The setting of TLU and hyper-personal advising allowed me to explore exactly what I was interested in, ultimately coming away with a great background to continue into either graduate school or go directly to work.

How do you feel about TLU today?

I have a very positive view of TLU and the students overall. From attending graduate school and working in industry, I have been exposed to students and curriculum from all over the world, and I have spent a large amount of time comparing it to my experiences at TLU. As with everything, there are trade-offs, but it is my impression that TLU not only provides access to a higher quality education than most institutions, but also better encourages students to take advantage of it.

What professional or personal experiences have had the most impact on you?

I do not know if I am able to single out one or two experiences that have had the most impact on me; it really feels like everything has been a journey and has all led to where I am now. Some of the big things of course though are undergraduate work at TLU, attending graduate school at Texas A&M, and the opportunity to live and work in California for a bit.

What advice would you give to current students?

The most important advice I have can be summarized in two points. First, everything is what you make of it. I believe this is true in everything from classes to personal experiences. You are the one who decides how much you will get out of anything, whether you do the minimum to pass an assignment or try to learn something useful. Second, the outcome of things depends far more on not quitting than being successful at every step. There are plenty of instances where I have fumbled something and thought it was unrecoverable, or have done something that set me back, but all that mattered was deciding on a path forward.