Bloomsburg University Student to Graduate College and High School Weeks Apart

Bloomsburg, PA (05/04/2022) — As Bloomsburg University seniors anxiously await their chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas on Sunday, May 15, Max Norfolk, from Danville, a computer science major, is in a unique situation. This spring, Norfolk will graduate from Bloomsburg University and Danville High School, just weeks apart.

Norfolk started college before he had finished middle school. He enrolled in the Advanced College Experience (ACE) program at BU while in 8th grade in 2017. "Starting college so early was a little weird at first," said Norfolk. "But it wasn't too hard to balance all my classes. During the day, I go to campus and attend classes like a normal college student. The only difference is that at night I still have my high school classes to finish online."

The most challenging part of the program, according to Norfolk, was scheduling. "In the list of who gets to pick their classes, those of us in the ACE program are at the very bottom," said Norfolk, "It was easier to enroll in my upper-level classes than the lower-level ones."

"I wasn't apprehensive about this when I first started at BU because I didn't even know that graduating from both college and high school at the same time was even an option. But, when I needed to eventually take English 101, I couldn't get into it," said Norfolk. "I had to speak to the computer science department chair, who spoke to the English department chair to get special permission to take the class over the summer."

Norfolk's favorite class during his undergraduate career was compiler construction. "This class may officially be a class, but it is not typically offered. I was able to take it as an independent study with Dr. William Calhoun," said Norfolk. Compilers simply explained, take computer code, and tell the computer how to use it.

Dr. Calhoun spoke highly of Norfolk's work they did together. "He created his own computer language during his individualized instruction called "Jazz," which is a variant of Java, and created a compiler for it," explained Calhoun. "He is a very intelligent young man and did excellent work."

"I worked with Dr. Calhoun on research before taking this class," said Norfolk. "It was a lot of fun. Our class gave me a lot of freedom to go off on tangents from what we were originally learning to explore things that were interesting to me."

During his previous semester's research with Dr. Calhoun, Norfolk was able to publish his work on the cost of a positive integer in the Rose-Hulman Undergraduate Mathematics Journal. He also spoke about the project at a Mathematical Association of America section meeting.

"The most difficult class I had to take was probably the software engineering capstone," said Norfolk. For his capstone, Norfolk worked with a small group to develop a location-based texting app for Android devices. "It was simply a lot of work. It took about 15 hours a week to program the app with my group."

"The application allows individuals to communicate via anonymous texts within a geographical boundary," explained Dr. Curt Jones, Max's professor for the software engineering capstone. "For example, parents at a sporting event or students at a Model UN event could communicate without providing personal data. Max ensured that his team completed an outstanding project by working together as a unit with everyone contributing."

Norfolk is not the only member of his family to participate in the ACE program. His older brother, Zachary, participated in the program, graduating from BU just one year after graduating from high school. His younger sister, Alexis, has just started the program while dually enrolled in 7th grade. His other brother, Jack, is currently taking some of his general education requirements through the program while also enrolled as a high school freshman.

After graduating, Norfolk plans to further his academic career in a Ph.D. program. He has been accepted into a program at Penn State to study compilers and continue his research as a research assistant. "I would love to do research in the technology industry to see the practical applications of what I work on."

Norfolk doesn't think that he has missed out on having a normal college experience by completing his undergraduate career early. "I don't think that anyone has had a 'normal college experience' because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Norfolk. "I knew that I wanted to get a higher degree, and getting a jump start on my education made sense."

As he reflects on his time with the ACE program, Norfolk says it has been a rewarding experience. "All of my professors and classes have been great. All my professors have been very nice and genuine people who were helpful to me during my time here."

Norfolk's hard work over the past five years has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Drue Coles, the professor for COMPSCI 386, Operating Systems, reflected on how Norfolk chose to complete an extra credit project with independent research on advanced elements of computer programming despite high grades in the course. "The overall result was an elaborate exercise in creativity that went far beyond the requirements of the maximum extra credit possible. Max could be forgiven for coasting through his final weeks as an undergraduate, but instead, he is keeping a heavy foot on the gas."

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 7,600 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in five distinct colleges: College of Education, Zeigler College of Business, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, and Honors College.

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Max Norfolk from Danville will graduate from both Bloomsburg University and Danville High School weeks apart.