Katy Blake Burch-Hudson

 Katy’s sister (also CIS alumna), her father, and Katy at a USC football game.

Katy’s sister (also CIS alumna), her father, and Katy at a USC football game.

“CIS created the existence of a community that I carried with me in the future,” says CIS alumna Katy Blake Burch-Hudson. “I knew everyone at CIS and had a relationship with all of my peers and my teachers. When I went to college and in my adult life, I did my best to create relationships with my new peers, my new friends, my new teachers, and my new coworkers to emulate the close-knit community I had at CIS.”

Katy attended CIS from 6th to 12th grade and graduated in 2014. Following her graduation, Katy attended the University of Southern California. She majored in International Relations with a minor in Global Health. She worked internationally as an English teacher for children and university students - in Spain as an au pair and elementary school teacher from 2014-2015, and as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Brazil since February 2018.

 Katy and her Spanish family who she lived and worked with teaching English for a year in Madrid, Spain.

Katy and her Spanish family who she lived and worked with teaching English for a year in Madrid, Spain.

Katy has many fond memories of CIS. She loved being a part of student council and served as the organization’s president her senior year. The experience piqued an interest in event coordination that has stayed with her until now and has become part of her career goals. She also participated in basketball and cross country. The cross country team was especially meaningful because she ran with the boys team for a year until a girls team was created, and then she ran alone on the girls team until her senior year when more girls joined. Being a part of creating the team was very rewarding for her.

But a memory that stands out the most to Katy is Mr. Bricker's teaching style. She attempts to emulate it every time she is with her students. “He always demanded excellence from his students. He would shut the door on you if you were late and he would scold you for not having your grade sheet in order. At the same time, he taught in a way that you didn't realize you were learning but you remembered the lessons because they were dynamic and engaging. Even up to the test review, which was often a jeopardy game full of dramatic daily doubles.

 Katy and Rosalynn Carter at an event at the Carter Center.

Katy and Rosalynn Carter at an event at the Carter Center.


One lesson that stuck with Katy, who often finds herself in new cultures, was a lesson that Mr. Bricker taught called "Nacirema." Katy recalls, “The class read a passage about a bizarre culture that had seemingly outrageous rituals and habits. At the end of the passage, we were asked to spell the title of the passage backwards. Spelled backwards, it reads "American." I remember this lesson distinctly because I was indignant and stubborn that all of the things I thought of as normal could be construed in a way that made them seem bizarre. As I travel, living in other countries, things that seem so normal to me are bizarre to other people, and vice versa. That awareness has been so valuable in continuing to build community abroad.”

Katy has some advice for current CIS students. “Make friends with everyone, and every experience is what you make of it - you get out of it as much energy and good vibes as you put into it. And listen to your teachers, mentors, coaches, and parents, but make the decision that feels right for you.”

Emily Woods Harding - 2002

Did you know Columbia Independent School almost selected the frog as its mascot?

Emily (Woods) Harding, a member of the first graduating class of Columbia Independent School in 2002, recalls being part of the group that chose the school mascot. The final two candidates were the frog and the lion. Thanks to Emily and her classmates, we’re proud to call ourselves CIS Lions.

Emily attended CIS from 1998-2002 and went on to attend Princeton University. She pursued an undergraduate degree in History and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She spent eight years in management consulting, three years in human resources, and now is in her first year of market research.

 Emily and her husband, Dan, in Estonia.

Emily and her husband, Dan, in Estonia.

She has challenged the thinking of leaders at many of the world's biggest companies and improved the decisions they make. Looking back to her first big paper at CIS (on Jack the Ripper!), she is thankful for how dedicated her CIS teachers were to helping her improve her critical thinking skills. It was a "light bulb" moment, and just one example of the many times her classmates and teachers at CIS challenged her. Critical thinking seems like a fluffy skill, she says, but it truly has driven her academic and professional success.

Emily says she did so many fun things at CIS that it’s hard to remember all of them. “Cheerleading at CIS was a lot of fun, and it helped me go on to cheer at Princeton. A few weeks ago, after twenty years, I finally parted with my ragged 1998-1999 CIS cheerleading t-shirt that had all of our names on it.”

Emily has some advice for current CIS students. “In high school and college, learn as much as you can about yourself. What types of activities do you truly enjoy? What are you really good at? What careers are out there that might be right for you? What type of people make you feel the best about yourself?”

 Emily and her dog, Eli, snuggling on the couch!

Emily and her dog, Eli, snuggling on the couch!

After twelve years in DC, Emily moved to St. Louis last year with her husband, Dan. She spends most of her time playing with their puppy, Eli, exploring St. Louis, traveling to different parts of the world, and getting back into golf.

“My hundred other little memories generally come down to how tight-knit the community was. When we celebrated accomplishments, disagreed, faced uncertainty, or just hung out before class, we were all in it together.”