Faces of UMSI: Sarah Herman
Senior BSI student Sarah Herman came to U-M expecting to study business and marketing. However, she was happy to discover an unfamiliar part of the university in her sophomore year where she could apply and grow both her analytical and creative sides — UMSI.
Sarah’s undergraduate career has been defined by her proactive drive to pursue opportunities at home and abroad. The Riverside, Connecticut native said she wasn’t expecting to go to a school like U-M after graduating from her small high school, but she emerged with her degree wanting something completely different.
“I was obsessed with the Big Ten spirit,” she said. “Michigan was my far reach, and I’m really glad I ended up here.”
When she moved to Ann Arbor to begin her freshman year, Sarah said she was originally focused on pursuing a business degree. However, when she applied to Ross School of Business as a freshman, she wasn’t accepted.
“I’ve always been numbers-oriented,” she said. “Sophomore year I was either going to pursue economics or try and figure something else out.”
That’s when a sorority sister suggested she look into UMSI.
“UMSI seemed super relevant and interesting,” Sarah said. “It was the perfect blend of analytics and creativity.”
She especially values the interdisciplinary nature of the BSI program, which she said allows students to create their own career paths and frame the degree in whatever ways they wish to apply it.
“I wanted to go into marketing to begin with, and I can still do that, but now I have a foundation for other options also,” she said. “It’s been nice to be able to explore my interests. Now I have a better idea of what I want to do. I think something like product management is a good mixture of data and creative design.”
Sarah said that dynamic, holistic assignments throughout her classes have helped her discover her passions and develop the kinds of teamwork skills employers are looking for. For Sarah, many SI classes have exceeded her expectations.
“In SI 370: Data Manipulation, I had no idea we were going to be doing machine learning,” she said. “I have seriously learned so much in this class. My coding skills have gotten infinitely better because I’ve been pushed to create machine learning models that are so powerful.”
While her SI professors have nudged her out of her comfort zone, Sarah said that the curriculum remains very approachable.
“Every day we’d open our laptops and the professor would have this notebook of code, and we’d run through it together,” she said. “It was super understandable and engaging.”
In addition to coursework, Sarah indicated that internships and experiences outside of the classroom have been equally important in strengthening her candidacy for the kinds of roles she’s interested in.
“SI has so many great opportunities; you just have to seek them out,” she said. “If you’re not paying attention and checking in regularly, you’ll miss them. My best advice is to be aware and immerse yourself in the program, because what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.”
This approach has led Sarah to an array of internships involving all kinds of data science and marketing responsibilities — at a local yoga studio, Pepsi’s corporate office in New York City and a travel agency in Cape Town, South Africa over the last couple of years alone.
When she’s not chasing opportunities to enhance her own education, Sarah helps other UMSI students develop their professional skills as a peer coach in SI 300: Career and Internship Studio.
“I’ve always loved being a mentor, so I’m always looking for opportunities to do that,” Sarah said.
As a peer coach, she shares stories about her experiences searching for internships, interviewing, attending networking opportunities, and dealing with other professional matters. She also holds office hours for one-on-one conversations with students who want to know more about how to navigate the beginning of their own professional lives.
“It’s been great for me to see where the needs are in the younger classes and be able to relay that information back to the instructors of the course,” she said. “UMSI loves getting feedback from students.”
Sarah is set to graduate in the spring of 2020, and she already has a job lined up with a data onboarding company in San Francisco.
“I’m excited because it’s geared toward where I want to end up in the future,” she said. “It’s a three-year rotational program, so I could be doing more technical things or I could be doing more client-facing things. It’s very fluid, which I love because I don’t want to be confined to one specific career path after graduation.”