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Kate Seyboth

“It’s important for girls AND boys to see this as a field that women and girls can and should explore.”

It was during her first year at Tufts University that Kate “stumbled into” the field of computer science. The Kansas City, Missouri, native intended to study mathematics and history in college but found that she wasn’t prepared for the volume of reading that confronted her when she arrived. “I went to my first history class and they assigned something like 200 pages for one class period. So, I slogged through those 200 pages, and I went to the second day of class and they assigned another 200 pages.” Kate decided to switch gears. A friend suggested she try the primer on computer science that he was enjoying. “The class was designed for people who had never studied computer science to feel comfortable, as a way of trying it out,” Kate says. She joined the class “on a whim” and “that transformed everything.” She wound up majoring in computer science, one of just a very few female students in that major in her graduating class at Tufts. She minored in math.

Early in her senior year, Kate secured what, on paper, appeared to be the perfect job — one she would start after graduation — a software engineering job with a well-known company. She was set to move to California for the position, but something kept nagging at her. “I really enjoyed the collaboration with people on the academic side of things.” As the year progressed, she grew increasingly concerned about the isolation of working as a software engineer. She had started coaching with a swim team that she had been a part of for many years, worked as a T.A. in college, and tutored when she was in high school. “I realized that my happiest times were when I was sharing with someone else. I realized [the software engineering] job is not what I’m supposed to be doing.”   

Kate originally planned to teach for a year then go back to school full-time to pursue a Ph.D.  She took a job at Westover School, an all-girls school in Middlebury, Conn., where she directed the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program. “I only intended to stay a year,” says Kate.  “But I fell in love with it.” She directed the program for 15 years.

When Kate was looking for a new challenge, she says she was drawn to the position of director of digital & computational learning at Loomis Chaffee. “I knew from interview day that it was a great fit for me. I love that everyone is about meaningful and substantive change (here), but with the supports that are required for it. And I really wanted to reach more students and give them more exposure to the field.”

Kate is taking a two-pronged approach to expanding the Loomis curriculum around computer science and computational learning. “We are adding computer science offerings for underclassmen as half-classes, which opens up room in their schedules. By allowing students to start earlier, we expect to have more students ultimately taking the upper-level courses,” she explains. Secondly, Kate works with other departments, most notably mathematics, to integrate computer science concepts into their curricula. “We have introduced at least four different programming languages now to the curriculum,” she adds.

The field of computer science is still largely male-dominated; only about 20 percent of people graduating from college with degrees in computer science are women. Through her work, Kate hopes to change that statistic. As one of the few women in the major at Tufts, Kate recalls suffering from “Impostor Syndrome.” “I kept thinking I shouldn’t be doing this. So for me, it’s important for girls AND boys to see this as a field that women and girls can and should explore,” she says. “I want kids who would be a good fit for (computer science) to have the opportunity to try it out.”


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