“Being a computer science major doesn’t box you in [to coding],” she says, “There are almost too many options.” – Kaitlin Huben, USA

Few things get me more excited about education transformation than hearing directly from students. Today’s college students, in particular, are not only digital natives, many have experienced a technology-enhanced education from the start. Kaitlin Huben is an outstanding example of one such student, and I had the honor of speaking with her on a recent visit to the Columbia University campus.

This high school valedictorian didn’t start out as a computer science student. In fact, she had little exposure to the subject, and intended to major in mechanical engineering. But thanks to Columbia’s broad engineering core curriculum (for more on their approach, see this recent Daily Edventure with Professor Adam Cannon), her Introduction to Computer Science requirement gave her a life-changing opportunity. As it turned out, she loved the instant gratification of programming.

Now in her final year as an undergrad, Huben is a teaching assistant for a computer science course, and she helps other students discover their own passion for the discipline. “I really knew nothing at all coming in about computer science,” she says, “and it can be a little bit scary sometimes being in a classroom, particularly if it’s a large, introductory course.”

While she’s living proof that you don’t necessarily need programming experience to succeed in college-level computer science program, Huben stresses that a passion for problem-solving is critical. “If we could get more exposure to computer science at a younger age, that would be great,” she notes, “but I think it’s important to have the basic (mathematical) skillset coming in, because that’s what’s going to serve you well.”

She’s still in school, but Huben already has a wealth of real-world experience under her belt. This summer, she was a software engineering intern with Zappos, where she worked on an internal process improvement tool. “Being a computer science major doesn’t box you in [to coding],” she says, “There are almost too many options.”

One of those options for Huben, eventually, is teaching, and she is enthusiastic about the role she can play in shaping young minds. For now, she’ll finish her degree and then explore the many work opportunities available to her.  I think you’ll be as inspired as I was by this passionate young woman, and as encouraged about the infinite possibilities of STEM education. 

About Kaitlin Huben, Computer Science Student

Columbia University

New York, USA

‏ @kaitlinhuben

Kaitlin Huben is a Computer Science major from Palos Verdes Estates, California. She is currently a bartender and teacher in the Columbia Bartending Agency & School of Mixology, as well as a tour guide and Member Training Co-Coordinator for the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee. Throughout her time at Columbia, Kaitlin has also participated in Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), which builds racecars; the Society of Women Engineers; and Columbia Wushu, a traditional Chinese martial art.

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