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2016
Elena Smith

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After earning a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Swarthmore College, Elena joined the fundraising team at an independent school in Los Angeles as a database manager. She strove to maintain database integrity by entering data with great attention to detail and carefully defining procedures. She enjoyed harvesting the rewards of these efforts by performing analytics – exporting the data, exploring it, and harnessing it to inform decision-making. To make fundraising operations more efficient, she assessed the impact of personalized, handwritten notes on solicitation letters and determined when donors were most at risk of discontinuing their annual support.

Yearning to explore larger data sets, Elena joined the fundraising team at Occidental College, a liberal arts college in Los Angeles. While continuing to work full-time, she completed two graduate-level statistics courses. Shortly thereafter, Elena developed a model in R to forecast the college’s ability to identify new prospective donors and achieve a multi-million dollar capital campaign. She also grew as a project manager by leading the college’s Alumni Engagement Score Task Force. Working with partners across her division, she spearheaded efforts to quantify the strength of alumni connections to the college, an important metric for the Alumni Relations team.

At Northwestern, Elena is eager to enhance her quantitative skills by studying techniques such as regression, linear optimization, and cluster analysis. After graduation, she will apply her knowledge to help companies gain new insights about their customers. She will draw upon the communication skills she developed as an English major to articulate her findings and deliver compelling arguments for change. As a deeply curious person, Elena looks forward to a rewarding and fulfilling career as a data scientist.