Data can make the world a better place

Elsa Yammin set out to grow her quantitative skills in Seattle Pacific’s Master of Science in Data Analytics in Business (MS-DAB) program. Her studies became an inspiration to improve the lives of people around the world.

“When I went home to Cyprus last Christmas, I saw so many small businesses — the shops and kiosks — operating without any awareness of how information systems can help them succeed,” Yammin said. “I thought, ‘What if I could use my skills to help these small businesses derive meaning from the data they have?’ Even a simple analysis could give them a foundation for future decisions that could grow and maintain their livelihoods.”

For Yammin, this inspiration came as something of a surprise. With a background in public policy and business, she was well-versed in qualitative skills: presenting cases and building arguments. But she wanted an even stronger foundation on the quantitative side. Once she began the MS-DAB program, she realized how captivating data analytics could be.

“What fascinates me is data interpretation. One number can have a lot of different meanings. One number speaks many different languages. It’s a challenge to interpret data ethically. But doing so can help us understand the past, deal with our present reality, and help us plot a course for the future.”

In 2019, Yammin, along with a group of SPU graduate students, founded the Seattle Data Science Alliance, which brings students and local professionals together to solve environmental, economic, social justice, and humanitarian concerns. The Alliance strengthened Yammin’s desire to work on real-world problems.

“There’s so much data in the world already. Data is the central piece of everything today. And there’s only going to be more of it,” Yammin said. “If we know how to strategically organize it, analyze it, and work with it, we can solve many of our societal issues and make the world a better place. Instead of data being the enemy, we can make it a friend.”

For Yammin, the degree is never more relevant than today, and she’s grateful to be building these skills during the current moment. “What we’re going through now with the current health crisis is unprecedented. It’s novel — we don’t have any historical data to analyze. But we can track real-time data, and over time we can look at patterns that will help us make good decisions. This kind of analysis benefits everything from governments to individuals. And in time, we can harness the power of educated predictions that will help us chart our course.”

Though Yammin works full-time, SPU’s MA-DAB program has been the perfect fit for her. She appreciates the small class sizes, the close connection with faculty, and the accessibility to students who are also working.

“The program is a good fit for anyone who is passionate about the modern world and realizes the direction it’s going. Regardless of industry or field, you’ll be presented with data. If you recognize the importance of that — and are enthusiastic enough to take on that challenge, even if you don’t have a quantitative background — this program is for you.”

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