Digital Harvard: Rob Bowden '13
Connecting with University-wide alumni for the first time
Rob Bowden '13 (third from left) joins fellow SEAS students and CS50X teaching staff in the photo booth at Digital Harvard in Austin.
The Digital Harvard in Austin event at South by Southwest was an amazing experience. It was my first time in Austin, and the first time I’ve ever been able to connect with alumni of the University. There was such a diverse range of alumni at the event, too! As a student at Harvard experiencing the rapid growth of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) first-hand, it’s easy to lose track of just how far we’ve come in such a short time. Connecting with the alumni really put that growth into perspective.
I spoke to one woman who was on a committee for looking at if and how Harvard should create an online presence. It didn’t even take place that long ago! I also talked with several alumni who had been around long before SEAS—and some who didn’t even know we had such a school. Many were shocked that CS50 (Introduction to Computer Science) had become one of the largest courses at the College. During their days at Harvard, they recalled, computer science had been such an esoteric subject.
Several Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni I spoke to were surprised to hear that CS50 now attracts students from HBS, many of whom are looking to pursue their own start-ups. I am looking forward to communicating with the numerous alumni whose business cards and email addresses I received at the gathering.
After the Harvard event, in the middle of the Austin Convention Center, a man named Kyle recognized me from my role as a head TF for CS50x (CS50’s offering through the online platform edX). He complimented the enthusiasm and structure of the course. Before that, the students taking the course online seemed to be just a faceless mass. The encounter really drove home that these are real people, and that the work that we are putting into the course is making a tangible difference in their lives.