It was the arid outskirt of Kandahar province, in Southeastern Afghanistan where US army Captain Theresa Todd led logistical operations from the mountains to the infantry battalion in 10th mountain division.
She started her first deployment in 2011 to push back the Taliban from disputed territories and after 3 years in 2014, she is moving back to her homeland with her equipment. Within a short period of time, there came many differences when she was first deployed in 2011 and in 2014 when she was returning back. In 2011 and 2012 the troops used to roam freely, however, in 2014 it converted to no-go zones.
In her spare time, she used to tinker the computer keyboards and other machines which she found from combat outposts. She usually gazed at those discarded machines for a long time. This made her develop a sense of fascination for technology, during her deployment.
This fascination led her to Northeastern in January, after she turned down the job in Microsoft and started her new carrier in financial technology.. It was a proud moment for her to come to Northeastern as her grandfather, Paul was an alumnus at Northeastern University. Theresa Todd says, “He was always proud of Northeastern, so I also wanted to come.”
It was a difficult time for Theresa Todd to live again like a civilian but she is learning and exploring. She is exploring herself and her passion. She is currently into a program called Align, where students who didn’t pursue computer science in graduation have an opportunity to do a master’s degree. It’s a 3-year programme and she is looking forward to the doctoral program.
She didn’t have any knowledge of what her doctoral research would be, but she was clear that her passion is in the intersection of humans, computer systems, and artificial intelligence. Theresa Todd says, “These machines, these systems, these programs-they mimic humanity. However, what does it actually mean to be human? It means to be flawed, choosing not two good answers, but a messy question and a messier answer.”
While she was in graduate school, she became pregnant and she asked for support from Megan Barry, the director of the Align Program. She stood for herself, asking for resources and advocating for support. Theresa Todd also remembers her old rental, the haunted house where she, her husband, her first child, and also a 2-year-old, Elizabeth, was born.
Even though many new challenges appeared in her life, she continued accepting all the wars. It was the beauty of her story which reflected that life happens and it’s only one life where you can explore new things and live the way you want to.