Biddle could have looked at Cal Poly, Stanford, or UC Berkeley, but instead she set her sights on the East Coast, looking for a place where she could both thrive in her chosen fields and explore a new part of the country.
“I feel like I’m getting an entirely different education [at Colby],” said Biddle, compared to peers who are enrolled in tech-specific undergraduate programs. “This education has taught me how to look at a problem and really think about it. And I’ve been able to balance that out with art.”
Biddle grew up in Burlingame, Calif., a bustling community nestled in Silicon Valley. But despite the heavy tech culture of the Valley, Biddle, the product of two liberal arts-loving parents, was always interested in more than just technology.
From a very early age she identified as an artist and started painting seriously in elementary and middle school. By the time she reached high school she was a volunteer art teacher—and had taken computer science courses, one at UC Berkeley. When it came time to apply for college, Biddle had a strong vision of what she did and didn’t want: she wanted different.
“I guess I really value that college is a time to learn new things and do something different; get out of your comfort zone,” Biddle said.
As she and her family toured NESCAC colleges, Colby was the last stop, and like many before her, she was floored by the beauty of the campus. She loved the trail network in and out of Perkins Arboretum for running and the access to winter sports at Quarry Road Trails and at nearby Sugarloaf Mountain Resort.
Colby ticked a lot of boxes off Biddle’s list, but it wasn’t easy at first. She struggled to fit in her first semester and had doubts about whether she had made the right decision. But by spring semester, she had hit her stride and was thriving. Two years later, her experience is exemplary. Her teammates on track and cross country have become some of her best friends, she has landed competitive internships at companies like Survey Monkey and NerdWallet, taken courses abroad in India and Denmark, and recently submitted paperwork to replace studio art with an independently designed major in, well, design.
Bruce Maxwell, Computer Science Department chair and Biddle’s “favorite professor ever” (“Where else can you find a department chair who is so invested in your experience, runs a successful consulting business, and has an alpaca farm?”), has been instrumental in helping Biddle navigate her undergraduate experience.
“I think she’s still trying to figure out where she’s headed after Colby,” said Maxwell, but he likens her co-occurring artistic, programming, and design interests to the godfather of Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs.
“If you open the box of an Apple product, it doesn’t say ‘Built by Apple,’” Maxwell said. “It doesn’t say ‘manufactured.’ It says, ‘Designed by Apple.’ That’s what they were about, and I think she fits into that mold in some ways. I think that’s where her background and her interests might naturally take her.”
“This education has taught me how to look at a problem and really think about it. And I’ve been able to balance that out with art.” —Brit Biddle ’19
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, pun intended. Biddle’s father, Gib Biddle, was an English major at Amherst and launched into a career in technology that included five years as vice president of product management at Netflix during the height of its growth. (Her mother, Kristen Hege, studied biochemistry at Dartmouth and is an M.D. and leading cancer researcher.) For her part, the younger Biddle is focusing on the present. She is busy as a TA in one of Maxwell’s intro-level courses, Computational Thinking: Visual Media, where she is particularly proud of mentoring underclasswomen in STEM.
She is looking forward to a summer as an intern in New York City for fashion tech company Rent the Runway. And when she returns to Maine, her senior year awaits. Biddle already knows the curriculum though: “The biggest thing I’m learning is who I am.”