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Kathi Cloughly ‘80

I entered UNC as a junior with a major in sociology. Prior to that, I’d spent a year at Ohio Wesleyan, one at Pitzer College and a gap year on a kibbutz in Israel. I married a British guy I’d met on the kibbutz and we lived in UNC’s married student housing. I was mentored as a student by Dick Cramer (academic adviser) and Pat Rieker (honor’s thesis adviser). I was involved with the growth of the women’s studies program and would have minored in it if it had been available.
My honor’s thesis blended the two as a historical look at attitudes towards breast feeding in the US in the 20th century. I remember working to pass the ERA in NC (it failed) and organizing the Women in Art events on campus. I treasure the broad education and experiences I had at Carolina.

After graduation, my husband and I moved to the greater Boston area. It was a tough time for anyone getting work in 1980 due to an economic downturn. The competition for social research jobs was fierce. I was lucky to be able to work at it for Pat Rieker who had become a faculty
member at Harvard Medical School. This was a wonderful but short-term experience. After that I became a paralegal, mortgage underwriter, then a housing planner for a regional planning agency, still not really finding what I wanted to do with my work life.

I finally found my passion in software engineering through a graduate program for non-technical undergrads at Northeastern’s College of Engineering. The dean of the program also ran the college’s Women in Engineering program. She happened to be a sociologist who valued my sociology degree from UNC and hired me as her graduate assistant. It was wonderful to be mentored through this program by her. She had a nearly 100% placement of graduates into technical positions and I was able to work on placements with her. This landed me a job at IBM in RTP, NC so we moved back to Chapel Hill.

IBM was a wonderful place at first, but over time it’s culture changed and I was miserable. Eventually I was laid off and ended up at SAS Institute which has an amazing, supportive culture and is usually in the top of the lists of best places to work. SAS sells statistical and analytical software so I feel like I’ve come back to my sociology roots.

Here’s a little story. One day I was in a grocery store in Chapel Hill and ran into a friend we’d known on the kibbutz. It turned out that she and her family live two blocks from us in the same neighborhood. One evening they invited us over for dinner along with neighbors of theirs. In walked Dick Cramer and his family and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him all over again.

Submitted April 2016