Faces of UMSI: Stacey Beck
Stacey Beck is a new mom, a licensed physical therapist and a student in the first cohort of UMSI’s new Master of Applied Data Science program. While serving as a full-time caregiver to her one-year-old daughter, she enrolled in the part-time degree program in order to prepare for a career transition toward health data science.
Stacey graduated with a master’s degree in physical therapy from Ithaca College in 2008. Over a decade of practice, she became interested in how data could generate solutions to real-world health problems. She began to explore data science by enrolling in community college courses in C++, data structures and algorithms, calculus, and linear algebra. “I was taking some Python courses on Coursera to prepare myself for some personal data-related projects before realizing that a degree program would better align with my goals,” she said. “That’s when I found the MADS degree on the platform.”
“I was drawn to the program description that indicated MADS was looking for nontraditional backgrounds,” she said. “Seeing as how I’m a PT with minimal programming experience … I thought this program might be a good fit.” While the program is tailored to nontraditional students like Stacey, she said she was still a bit intimidated coming in. However, she’s found success through balance. “Learning how to juggle raising a baby and finding time to focus on school, all while managing to get a bit of sleep as well … I can say that the current model of taking one class per month, though intense, has been working well for me so far,” she said.
One thing that’s made the program easier for Stacey is the ability to connect and communicate with her peers, which is integrated into the MADS experience. “I appreciate the platform MADS provides us to communicate freely with our peers and professors using Slack and Piazza,” she said. “At the community college level, you just don’t get that sort of connectedness with online courses.” In fact, Stacey has been able to find peer support offline as well. “I have a classmate who lives 20 minutes from me, and we’ve arranged a couple of meet-ups so far,” she said. “The world feels a lot smaller, suddenly.”
Like many others in the first MADS cohort, Stacey said she feels honored to pioneer the groundbreaking degree program. “I learn best by doing and always have,” she said. “Applying my knowledge to something meaningful based on real-life scenarios is important to me. It helps me maintain a level of curiosity that drives my passion to learn and apply this knowledge to health care problems.”