Rochester’s flexibility helps Valerie Battista thrive

December 18, 2021

Valerie Battista ’23, plays the carillon atop Rush Rhees Library. The University of Rochester open curriculum has given her flexibility to not only major in computer science, but to take several courses in music. Playing the carillon and coding are among her favorite pursuits.
Valerie Battista ’23, plays the carillon atop Rush Rhees Library. The University of Rochester open curriculum has given her flexibility to not only major in computer science, but to take several courses in music. Playing the carillon and coding are among her favorite pursuits.

“I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember,” says Valerie Battista ’23, a computer science major at the University of Rochester.

She sings with the University Chamber Singers and the Treble Chorus, two choral ensembles on campus. And when Battista found out that University students could learn to play the carillon atop Rush Rhees Library, she couldn’t resist.

Battista started taking lessons the spring semester of her first year, and despite interruptions due to COVID, she’s been playing the carillon since.

Previous piano lessons helped her get the hang of it, because the layout of the keys is similar. “The biggest adjustment is that you are playing notes with your feet and your hands at the same time,” Battista says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

And thanks to the University’s unique open curriculum, Battista has been able to explore her passion for music even further. “Instead of very strict, laid out general education requirements, the University has a cluster system. You’re still taking courses in a lot of different fields, but you get to choose what areas you want to specialize in,” she says.

That has allowed her to take courses in music history and theory. She is currently taking a class on drumming and dance in southern Africa.

“I came in hoping to minor in music, but now I am going to be able to double major in it, because the flexibility of the program here has allowed me to take enough classes.”

Parents encouraged her interest in science, technology

Battista was born and raised in Columbia, MD. Her parents, who both earned degrees in electrical engineering, “have always encouraged me to have an interest in science and technology in general,” Battista says. “And since both of my parents had a pretty similar path at the beginning of their careers, I never had the idea that gender should play a factor in what people are able to do.”

She learned how to code in 8th grade. Battista enjoyed the experience so much that ever since she’s wanted to learn more about coding and computers, and maybe choose a related career.

Battista’s interest in pursuing computer science as a major was solidified soon after arriving on the Rochester campus. She took an introductory course that exposed her to Java. “That was the springboard to go on to more classes,” she says.

This past summer, she interned with T. Rowe Price, the global investment management firm, doing web development. “I enjoyed the internship because I gained my first real experience developing software for a company, and I can definitely see myself doing this kind of work as a career,” she says. The company has invited her to return next summer.

As a result, Battista says she finds herself being drawn more and more towards software development.

 ‘I’ve been doing things that I really enjoy doing’

In addition to pursuing music and computer science, Battista has also enjoyed participating in the Society of Women Engineers student chapter. She has helped plan and present outreach events designed to encourage young girls in the Rochester area to consider STEM careers. “This has also given me an opportunity to interact with other engineering and computer science students,” she says.Valerie Battista

During her sophomore year, Battista was selected as a recipient of the Suzanne J. O’Brien Book Award, which recognizes students who excel academically and in leadership roles in their first year at the College. It is a good predictor of students who will make the most of the opportunities available to them at the University.

Battista says her Rochester experience has been a positive one. “I’ve been very, very busy, but I’ve been doing things that I really enjoy doing, and that I want to continue doing,” she says.  “So, it’s been a really wonderful experience.”

For now, she is leaning towards working in industry after she graduates, potentially at T. Rowe Price. But in the meantime, she plans to keep taking more computer science courses to help inform her decision when the time comes.

Long term she anticipates pursuing a career in some aspect of software development or computer science.

“And I want to keep doing music as a long-term hobby, finding choirs that I can sing in,” Battista says. “I haven’t really planned much beyond that. I think I might just wait and see what opportunities come up as I get further along in my career.”