School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Eric Rapos

PhD. candidate, Computing

Eric Rapos

Nearly a Decade of Volunteer Service to Queen's Earns PhD Student Top Tricolour Honour

by Sharday Mosurinjohn, February 2015

If you’re a current member of the Queen’s community, you’ve likely seen Eric Rapos’ name, if not the man himself. Over the course of three degrees at Queen’s – nine years, he tallies – Rapos has been part of a variety of committees, associations, and societies which, if mathematics tells us aren’t innumerable, are at least hard to list. The most recent reason why the name Eric Rapos is on the tongues of many is that he is one of seven recipients this year of the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award, “the highest tribute that can be paid to a student for valuable and distinguished service to the University in non-athletic, extra-curricular activities.”

Rapos has been inducted into the Tricolour Society for his work in student government at the university-wide level and departmentally, as well as other volunteer service, such as having been an orientation leader in the second year of his undergraduate degree in the Software Design program at the School of Computing. He went on to serve as the Vice President External of the Computing Students Association (COMPSA) in his third year, and was elected to the COMPSA presidency in his fourth year, which entailed also sitting on the Alma Mater Society (AMS) assembly.

Even early on in his time at Queen’s, though he didn’t yet have a passion for student politics, he loved the school. High school teachers had said good things about it, and when he came to visit, he “fell in love with the campus.” Once he did get involved, he came to recognize that growth happened when these commitments got him “out of [his] comfort zone.”

As an MSc student in the same School, Rapos twice helped to organize the Queen’s Graduate Computing Society Conference and was the general chair of the committee, which hosts around one hundred conference-goers, in the first year of his PhD. To say the least, this experience was an opportunity to “interact with people [he] wouldn’t otherwise have met.” Last year, he was elected to be the president of the Graduate Computing Society (GCS).

With the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), he has acted as Speaker, chairing meetings and interpreting policy. Subsequent to this role, Rapos continued to be involved in the SGPS as the Chief Returning Officer, which saw him running SGPS elections. Now, in the third year of his PhD, his position as a graduate student Senator sees him sitting on the Graduate Studies Executive Council and a number of senate committees. His activities read more like an organizational flowchart than the efforts of one man.

One of the unexpected things that came out of Rapos’ service has been realizing a love for policy – “interpreting policy, editing policy, and applying it in contentious situations.” The favourite and highest-profile instance Rapos remembers is when students began calling for the removal of a former Queen’s Rector, and the governing bodies involved discovered that there was no policy in place that would allow them to do so. “It was a difficult time,” he acknowledges, “but it led to a closer working relationship between the AMS and SGPS on university-wide issues and issues of municipal relevance, like the recent debate over re-drawing electoral boundaries around the university.”

Rapos says he values political matters, and matters of policy especially, as a “contrast” to his research. As a PhD candidate, he is part of a CREATE program in the School of Computing, where his work involves testing models of automotive software for efficiency. The CREATE program is highly industry-oriented, meaning that Rapos is working with his industrial partner, General Motors. For purposes of sharing the fruits of this research through publication, Rapos and supervisor Dr. James Cordy work with analogous open-source models. The purpose is to promote increase efficiency of automotive software testing.

Although his research is very tied to industrial application, Rapos ultimately wants to be an academic. “Motivation for technical research and the funding for it comes from industrial ties,” after all. Not surprisingly, Rapos pictures his future in the role of professor, inducting new students into the field – which, as he mentions, has only been around in the form of computer science departments for about the past fifty years.

It’s impossible, of course, to foretell his professional future, but for now, Rapos says he enjoys the feeling of knowing what projects are coming down the pipeline in university governance, and watching them come to fruition. His message to anyone part of this community to which he has so dedicated himself is to “get involved. I’ve obviously enjoyed my time here, and I would encourage others to do the same.” In the big picture, “every contribution counts.”

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