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Grinnellians you should know (or know about): Terian Koscik ’12

Part of an ongoing series on the people who learn at Grinnell and those who support them in learning.

This semester, I’ve twice had the privilege to hear Terian Koscik ’12 speak: She was one of the first visitors to Learning from Alumni and she returned this weekend for the CS Affinity Reunion. Watching Terian makes me happy and proud; she represents the many things I value about Grinnellians.

I’m not quite sure where to start, so I’ll start with her presentation at reunion. Terian talked about personal projects, particularly about her experiences writing Twitter ’bots. I’m trying to decide what impressed me most about the presentation; I think it’s that Terian finds art in so many different things, from fake Taco Bell dishes to negative Yelp reviews. But I also appreciate how clearly she speaks with the perspective of a computer scientist, or at least a computer programmer. In particular, she spoke about the importance of realizing that you’re sometimes better off doing things with code than doing them by hand, the joy of building things just to build things, and the ways in which doing so can help you learn new things.

Beyond those two core aspects (art and computing), I am thrilled to hear that she works so hard to do outreach in computing, to help others start to learn the joy she takes from computing. She works with kids in ChickTech, Girls Inc., Saturday Academy, and DjangoGirls PDX. She works with adults by teaching people to make weird software at conferences and elsewhere. I wish we’d had more time to talk about outreach. I should probably rely on her more as we work to plan the Grinnell summer coding camps. Maybe we should even do a version of the DjangoGirls curriculum. At today’s unconference, the group talked a bit about including coding for Minecraft. I had thought Minecraft was more of a boy’s thing, but the alums tell me that it’s much more gender inclusive than I thought. I should certainly follow up on that

Beyond everything, I admire Terian for her courage and tenacity. She has a comic book about her struggles with anxiety. I know that it’s incredibly difficult to say such things in public, and I expect that her willingness to do so will make a huge difference to others. She also spoke well to students about the courage to volunteer to present at a conference (although she didn’t call it courage, but that’s what it is). I hope she inspired some of them to think about start proposing their own conference talks. It’s also pretty clear that she’d be willing to help students come up with ideas. Finally, I appreciate her effort to get here for reunion. Due to the snows in Denver, she got here about twenty-four hours after she planned to. So she missed the first night (and probably didn’t get enough sleep), but still participated actively on the last day and a half.

Having Terian here reminded me of things I’d forgotten: Her talent on the flute (it makes me sad that she’s not playing as much), how damn hard she worked at Grinnell, and more. I’m thrilled we had her as a student.

I wish I’d had more time to talk to Terian. (Okay, I wish I’d had more time to talk to all of the alums who were here for reunion.) But I’m thrilled that she was able to make it back. I know I need to write to her about a whole bunch of things. And, fortunately, I have her drawing of a Scribbler Robot on my wall to remind me not only of how special Terian is, but also that I need to write.

Terian wrote the following in response to my sending her this essay.

I would love to help out in any way that I can with supporting current students or in outreach! I’ve been emailing with ******, a current student who said they’ve been stressing out about career planning. I hope I made it clear to the other students who were around for my talk that I’m happy to talk to any of them about living in Portland or applying for jobs or going to conferences or whatever else. There’s also been a distinct lack of Django Girls events in the midwest, and it’s the kind of workshop that isn’t too much trouble to set up while having a profound impact on everyone who participates, in my experience.

So, yes, Terian, I’ll try to set up a Django Girls event. I’ll probably contact you for guidance. And I’ll encourage students to contact you.

Version 1.1.1 of 2016-12-31.