This past week I visited the Mathmatics and Statistics Learning Center (MSLC) for help on a review sheet for my Calculus II class. I decided to take the engineering calculus course (1172) for my first math class in college. I took AP calculus 1 in high school and I got a good score on the BC test, thus I decided that I was ready for this course, considering I would have to take it eventually anyways. This course is the accelerated version of Calculus II so the review of Calculus I has gone by extremely fast. We already have a midterm over the review content this Thursday evening. I felt pretty confident on the Calculus I information, and I have done well on the quizzes so far, but I wanted to make sure I was prepared for the midterm and that I knew how the MSLC system worked before I would really need it. I have never been one to shy away from getting help, but I would say that I spend a lot of time trying to figure stuff out on my own. Part of the reason why I may have stayed away from review sessions in high school was because I didn’t know what types of questions to ask. Although, when I went to the MSLC, I thought it was really easy to find help and ask questions about the homework problems I was assigned. It wasn’t that easy to find the correct place for the center, being that it was located in the basement of one of the math buildings, but, once I found the correct room, I was honestly surprised by how many people were inside. I think there were six tables and each table was at least half occupied by students. Every student sat down at a table and worked on homework while the grad students and approved tutors walked around to offer help to anyone who needed it. I was surprised by the amount of people who were willing to seek help to this extent. In high school, tutoring was a highly stigmatized topic for students, and, for this reason, tutoring services weren’t taken advantage of as much as needed. However, I would say that I never felt bad about asking for help. I just didn’t need it as often, so I wasn’t able to help limit that level of stigma. I only needed help on one problem when I went to the MSLC, but I’m glad that I went rather than finding a fellow classmate to help me. This way I was 100% confident in the answers I was receiving, and I knew that the grad students wouldn’t just give me the answer but walk me through how to solve it. I liked that the tutors gave me hints on how to solve the problem so that I could still figure it out on my own. Personally, I learn best this way. The grad student who helped me only helped me for a minute or two, but, from their help, I was able to fully grasp the idea relating to the problem rather than simply being able to get that specific problem correct.
This past Thursday, I attended a meeting for the Big Data and Analytics Association (BDAA). I had heard about the club at the Welcome Week Student Involvement Fair, but Thursday was the first day I was able to make it to an official meeting. I had already tested out a few other clubs, such as, Chemistry Club or Astronomical Society, but none of them peaked my interest quite like BDAA. This organization focuses on teaching its members how to analyze data in real world applications and prepares them for career fairs and other events that could lead to an internship, or, potentially, a career. Traditionally, meetings are on Tuesdays, and, each week, guest speakers teach a new topic relevant to data analysts in the work force. However, this past Thursday, the club held a Q&A session with experienced members for any interested first year students. I tried to convince some of my friends to come along, and I was able to get two of them to come along. For the Q and A, all five panelists had held data analyst internships at some point in their collegiate careers. First they took turns answering predetermined questions arranged by the club president. For example he asked, “What BDAA event was most helpful for you?” and, “What skills did you use most often with your internships?” I could feel myself becoming more intrigued with data analytics as a whole the more they talked about their internships. They explained that computer science and statistics were both important for their jobs, but also how they learned a lot while working. This aspect really stuck with me because I always tend to think that I’m under-qualified for certain positions due to lack of experience, but they explained that their employers encouraged learning on the job as long as they understood the logistical side of the business. One of the events that came up multiple times in their responses was a more private career fair that the club as a whole was invited to. They talked about the great opportunity for networking and most of them made their first connection with their internship at that fair. They made me excited about it and I didn’t even fully understand what it meant to be a data analyst. The second half of the meeting was slightly different. Every new student separated into five groups and each panelist went to a group to answer more specific and relevant questions. After about 5 minutes the panelists would rotate so that we could get other perspectives. I asked a lot of questions relating to the possibility of learning these skills on the side. The reason I asked this is because I am in engineering and I’m trying to minor in Spanish so classes relating to data analytics probably won’t fit my schedule. To my relief, all of them said that they thought anyone can learn the basics on the side and for the most part their internships didn’t require much previous knowledge. Overall, the answers they gave really put me at ease and made me highly consider data analytics as a career path I would like to explore more. In fact, one of the panelists held an internship as a data analyst in a chemical engineering company which would make perfect sense for myself. I’m interested in continuing with BDAA through this school year. I just have to figure out how to build it into my busy schedule. Being that I am in other clubs like: Academic team, American Chemical Society, and Intramural Soccer, it will be a little harder to manage my time, but I do think I will prioritize BDAA when there is conflicts. I would definitely encourage any student who is interested in using logical reasoning, statistics, and coding to consider joining BDAA. It opened up a potential career path for me and I’m sure it’ll do the same for many other students.