Josh Blumberg - Featured Alumnus (2004 Newsletter)

In 1997, when Josh Blumberg graduated from UR with a double degree in Computer Science and Cognitive Science, the dot com industry was still on the rise. His classmates accepted jobs at major corporations, consulting firms and small software houses at ever increasing salaries. Josh, however, wasn’t looking for the “get rich quick” corporate gig. At graduation, his plans were uncertain, but he hoped to crew a sailboat over to Israel, climb some high peak, or explore the world.

Cognitive Science and computer science offered something of a unique opportunity for Josh. His course track of “Learning” in Cog Sci allowed him to incorporate the two seemingly divergent fields of education and computer science by looking at the way these disciplines perceive learning. While at UR, he volunteered as a tutor for city school children to apply some of his newly acquired knowledge. Josh’s interests weren’t limited to CSC and education, however. His love of the outdoors even inspired him to study for a semester in the desert southwest, backpacking and living under the stars while getting college credit for field study courses from a west coast university.

So how does a computer scientist resolve the conflict between the daily confines of the programmer’s cubicle and the open skies of the great outdoors? Do as Josh did, and find a willing employer! In his case, he found a company that would allow him the flexibility of working for several months, and then leaving for an undetermined period of time. During the months of his walkabouts, Blumberg was an Outward Bound counselor, spent time hiking around the U.S and visiting friends on the west coast. After returning multiple times to his programming job in Maryland, Josh decided it was time to reach for his true calling, teaching. Here he could combine his knowledge of computer science and his interest in learning. He researched to find the best private high school in the country, sent in his application to Eagle Rock School in Colorado, crossed his fingers and waited. He was accepted for a one year position as an intern and resident computer lab technician, packed his backpack and moved to the mountains of Colorado. His days involved teaching an occasional course, running the computer labs, and hiking with the students at this Honda-supported school near the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Blumberg has settled now at The Rivers School, a private 6th-12th grade park-like campus outside of Boston. He has always been interested in alternative education and the teaching of logical reasoning through computer science. At Rivers, he teaches AP Computer Science and manages the school’s network. The school’s philosophy includes ample time for outdoor teaching activities, sports & music. In his teaching, Josh has noticed that his background as a CSC major sets him apart from many high school teachers of AP Computer Science, who are often math teachers with little computer science background. When asked what advice Josh would give CSC students interested in pursuing a teaching career, he suggested students should look at private schools as they have more flexibility and control over their programs than public schools. Certification to teach computer science varies from state to state, making it difficult to qualify for positions in local school districts. Private schools often have more computer science electives for their students and don’t need to follow rules for state certification. Though there are difficulties sorting out the regulations for high school teaching, Josh believes that CSC majors have great skills to share with the future generation of computer scientists.

Blumberg’s career choices quickly dispel the notion that a computer science degree means you’ll be locked in a cubicle staring at a computer screen for the rest of your life. Josh has found his UR degrees have allowed him to climb to new heights, both professionally and recreationally.