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University of Michigan School of Information


Faces of UMSI: Julia Kassab

A photo of Julia Kassab posing behind a long wooden desk in an empty Law School classroom

For Julia Kassab, peace isn’t a far-off ideal. It can be fostered and measured using data. 

A Bachelor of Science in Information student, Julia entered the University of Michigan with strong interests in public policy and law. She took a part-time job as a research assistant in the Department of Political Science.

“I didn't anticipate really doing anything with technology,” she recalls. “But then I learned that all of political science research — the way that people understand political science — it's all data science. That really spurred my interest in studying information. I wanted to have the tools to understand data.” 

Now, as a junior on the information analysis track in the School of Information, Julia is exploring her passion for “interactions between people, politics and technology” in courses like SI 302: Introduction to Information Ethics and SI 519: Information and Intellectual Property Law, a graduate-level class taught by lecturer in information Melissa Levine

“I like the breadth of things I have the option to learn about, whether that's graphic design, law, public policy, tech and society, or purely data science. They all fit together so well,” she says. “In one of my classes, I was learning software, while in another class, I was learning about the legality of that software.”

A photo of Julia Kassab
As a Bachelor of Science in Information student, Julia Kassab is exploring her passion for “interactions between people, politics and technology.” 

Julia is a global thinker and a go-getter. She spent last summer in Brussels interning at the Institute for Economics and Peace — an internship she landed by reaching out to regional director Serge Stoobants on LinkedIn and expressing excitement about his work. “I wasn't even really thinking about getting a job,” she says. But after an hour-long conversation, he offered her an internship on the spot.   

IEP is a think tank that uses data-driven research to demonstrate that peace is viable and valuable for societies globally. During her internship, Julia was the only American working in the Brussels office, which focuses specifically on European and Middle Eastern policy. 

“I spent a lot of time fleshing out what I value and what I want to contribute to, and the Institute for Economics and Peace felt like something that aligned really well with my values,” she says. “It was really meaningful work.” 

On campus, Julia has found meaningful involvement in the Global Scholars Program, a living-learning community in North Quad. She has also found mentorship from her professors, which has helped her feel supported as a first-generation college student. “I feel like that is something specific to UMSI,” she says. “I have felt like my professors have cared to get to know me.”

While taking SI 519, she connected with lecturer Melissa Levine. “She was really amazing. I could talk to her for hours,” Julia says. “She really encouraged me to continue to pursue public policy through the unique lens of information science.” 

Currently, Julia and a classmate are designing a national survey to study undergraduate attitudes toward artificial intelligence and the implications for education policy. They were awarded a $15,000 grant by the Barger Leadership Institute, where they are social transformation fellows. 

“I know that undergraduates use AI, nationally, across universities,” Julia says. “I’m wondering how frequently people use it. Do people think of it as cheating? I’m curious as to how they feel about it and, politically, what that means.” 

This semester, she is excited to be studying machine learning and data science in Thessaloniki, Greece, through a UMSI study abroad program.

She says there is another destination she hopes to reach — in a decade or so. “I would really like to work for a think tank as a researcher. I think most people who do research on that level have either a PhD, or ten years of experience as a data analyst,” she notes. “So, I know that’s far away. But that’s something I would really love to do.”

Looking at the existing data, it seems likely she’ll get there. 

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