Computer Science and creativity have nothing in common. That may be a common opinion among most people, but Computer Science and Engineering Instructor Natasha Delahunt disagrees. She argues that computer science has many creative aspects.
Delahunt, who currently teaches Computer Science (CSCE) 101, has a creative background going back to her youth and undergraduate experiences at the University of South Carolina. The Columbia native spent her youth mastering the art of dance. While USC did not have a dance program when she started college in 1992, Delahunt decided to major in something similar.
“Theater was the next best thing. I'm glad that I couldn't major in dance because I learned a lot majoring in theater, and it opened up more paths for me,” Delahunt says. “I think that's why I like to teach because when you’re in the classroom, it's a performance whether you want to accept it or not. You're performing for a group of people.”
Delahunt moved to Los Angeles after graduating to pursue a performing arts career. She worked in the film and movie industry in production as a casting assistant and extra among other jobs. She learned how to persevere, network and gained valuable skills pertaining to the film industry.
“You always have to prove yourself, so I had to interview and show that I would do what was necessary,” Delahunt says. “I worked as a production assistant on [the movie] ‘Constantine.’ That’s the only movie that actually has my name in the credits at the end, which is exciting.”
Delahunt eventually came back to South Carolina to be closer to family, and since the state does not have a big film industry, she had to reinvent herself. Delahunt decided to return to her alma mater but this time to earn her master’s degree in software engineering. While getting her masters, she found a passion for teaching to a new generation of computer-savvy students, which led her to becoming an instructor.
“I think all the jobs she had along the way probably helped her in her teaching career, especially when she was in California and worked with all different types of people in casting,” says Coleen Strasburger, owner of The Turning Pointe dance supply shop in Columbia, where Delahunt previously worked.
In her CSCE 101 class, she teaches students from all majors about coding in Python, a versatile computer language.
“When you're programming and creating a program, it's a very creative process even though it doesn't seem like it at all. It's not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of computer science, but it's very creative,” Delahunt says.
When not in the classroom, Delahunt still enjoys her creative side by doing ceramics, tennis and most recently, roller skating. While in her classroom, she believes she is passing on the tools of creativity to another generation of students.
“It doesn't always come across to my students, but I try to get them to understand that I'm not just teaching lines of code. I'm giving them tools to create something,” Delahunt says. “You've got a blank canvas. You put the lines of code together in your own way to make something cool happen. It's such a creative process.”