Dancing Through Algorithms: Transitioning from Dance to Tech

Sai Rajeswari Ghanta
March 7, 2024
Pace Student Lauren DeMaio standing in front of old buildings in Seaport, NYC.

Lauren DeMaio (BS in Computer Science '24) is a senior at the Seidenberg School, who mixes the art of dance with the science of computing. Join us as we walk through Lauren's typical day on campus, her lattes, her algorithms, and the story of how her decisions have led to an adventure in learning and teaching, at Pace.

Lauren’s typical day begins with a brief stop at the Seidenberg building where she is greeted by fellow students and faculty collaborating on projects, doing homework, or simply catching up from the weekend. These interactions set the tone for Lauren’s day and are a reminder of the fun and collegial community she has found at Seidenberg.

Lauren’s path to Pace was a bit less traditional than some. During her senior year in high school, and driven by a passion for dance, Lauren decided to leave public school to attend the Joffrey Ballet School as a Jazz and Contemporary Trainee. “I was commuting each day from my home in Dutchess County to New York City,” noted Lauren. Though the dance program was supposed to be four years long, Lauren decided to apply to a handful of colleges. “I just wanted to keep all possible paths open for myself,” shared Lauren. “I had very little interest in most of the schools I applied to, but when I received my acceptance to Pace, I was so thrilled that I accepted the offer.” Lauren ended up deferring her acceptance for one year, as she continued her studies at Joffrey.

When the COVID pandemic hit, however, it inspired Lauren to re-evaluate her path. “I took a look at my deferral from Pace and just jumped,” advised Lauren.

Computer Science was the only major that ever spoke to me, so I just took that idea and ran with it. Here I am in my senior year of undergrad, and I could not be happier with the decisions I made, especially with choosing Pace.

Lauren has filled her time at Pace with more than just studies. She has been able to nurture her love for teaching (she previously taught dance) through being a Teaching Assistant, with Dr. Carmine Guida as her mentor. In this role, Lauren is able to transfer approaches she’s used in teaching dance to help students in CS 241 Data Structures & Algorithms and CS 321 Intro to Game Programming. “Breaking down abstract computer science topics is just like breaking down the mechanics of a tendu,” shares Lauren. “Seeing that spark moment for the student where they finally understand has just further fueled my love for teaching.”

In addition, Lauren participates in the Design Factory project. During the Fall 2023 semester, Lauren and her teammates, led by the Design Factory program director Dr. Andreea Cotoranu, focused on responsible consumption and production, and looked for opportunities to address them. As part of their journey, they travelled to CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, and spent two weeks developing solutions alongside other schools from the Design Factory Network. Lauren’s team is currently in the prototyping phase of their project, expecting to finish it by the end of the Spring 2024 semester.

Everyone on the team is so welcoming and passionate about what they are studying. It is truly inspiring to be part of such an aspiring group of students.

Despite her busy schedule, Lauren finds time to socialize (and caffeinate) throughout the day. You can find her each morning grabbing a latte from Variety Coffee Roasters. She also takes the opportunity to enjoy an espresso when she visits Dr. Guida to discuss her research and the progress of students in CS 241 and CS 321. After class, Lauren and her friends often walk over to the McNally Jackson bookstore, with a quick stop at the Funny Face bakery, to get hot chocolate and browse new books.

Despite changing gears, Lauren continues to be influenced by her background in dance. “Dancers have this beautiful ability to create a welcoming space for others where self-expression and being fully oneself in the present is key,” offers Lauren. “Not to make it seem like a science, but there is a power that comes with having the ability to make people feel comfortable in any particular space.” Lauren tries to apply this openness and promotion of self in all her interactions. “Giving people the space to express their passions really helps me see people as they are, and I have dance to thank for the ability to do that.”

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