Faces of UMSI: Rachel Wyatt
Rachel Wyatt, of Swartz Creek, MI, said she’s excited about what she has to show for this time in her life.
“Working full time and participating in MADS with a plan to complete the program in two years has been manageable,” she said. “Adding school-age children to the mix is certainly an added challenge, particularly since they have been doing school at home this year due to the pandemic … [but] I will have survived a pandemic while working full time, managing my children’s online schooling, and earning a master’s in applied data science!”
The mom of two said she began her journey as a data scientist with a career shift in 2016, as her youngest was beginning preschool. Rachel also went to school at that time, working toward her bachelor’s in computer science.
“As I was finishing my computer science degree and wondering how I could use my love of math and computer science to help my community, I discovered that U-M was introducing the MADS program,” she said. “I did some introductory data science tutorials to make sure this was a field I could see myself in and only got more excited.” The fully online nature of the program was also appealing, Rachel said, so she could continue to work and be available to her family as well.
And just a little ways into the MADS program, Rachel began working for the University of Michigan, too.
“I work in the School of Public Health Prevention Research Center as a data manager and get to work with a lot of interesting data and contribute to meaningful research in areas such as crime prevention and school safety,” she said. “... Almost everything I do in my current job relies heavily on knowledge I have gained exclusively from the MADS program.”
In fact, one of the aspects of the program Rachel appreciates most is how applicable its lessons are to her workplace and real world problems.
“I am very fortunate that I have been able to grow what I am able to do in my position as I have progressed through the program as well,” she said. “I have taken other Coursera courses and, while MADS uses the Coursera platform, the program provides so much more than the typical Coursera course. Not only are students provided with the rigor and resources that come with belonging to an elite university, but staff and faculty are readily available to provide feedback and assistance to students.”
Not only are staff and faculty more available to students than in an in-person program, but MADS students are also there for each other day in and day out on the way to their degrees.
“I am surprised at how connected I feel to the university and how easy it is to talk to all of the faculty, staff and fellow students,” she said. “There is ample opportunity for collaboration, especially in the Milestone courses. … Students are also able to ask questions and assist each other in Slack and build working relationships as we progress through the program together.”
Rachel has been able to balance her work and studies well enough to also enjoy some mining of a non-data sort recently.
“Since the pandemic, I have begun playing video games for the first time in my life, which is something I never thought I would enjoy,” Rachel said, “but I have found playing games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing with my kids to be a refreshing way to unwind."