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Career Center using data to connect students, employers

March 23, 2017
woman works at computer with multiple monitors displaying dataVanessa Newton was hired as the new director of assessment data and operations at the Career Center in July 2016. “The goal is to make better decisions utilizing data,” Newton says. “For example, we know that 25 percent of recent graduates have stayed in the Rochester area. How are we setting them up for success in Rochester?” (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

The University of Rochester has good news about undergraduate alumni who earned their degrees between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. A survey put out by the University’s Gwen M. Greene  Career and Internship Center, along with data from other sources, showed that:

  • The average salary is $56,000.
  • Ninety percent are either working or continuing their education.
  • They’ve been hired by major companies like Apple, Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, General Motors, and Google.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” says Vanessa Newton, director of assessment data and operations at the Career Center. “It really says a lot about the University of Rochester.”

illustration of dandelion with data as seeds

Unlocking big data

A Newscenter series on how Rochester is using data science to change how we research, how we learn, and how we understand our world.

It also says a lot about the important role that data science is playing in the University’s efforts to connect students with potential employers.

When Joe Testani took over as executive director of the Career Center two years ago, his goal was to hire someone with an expertise in analyzing data that would benefit students and prospective employers. Last July, he brought in Newton, who was a program analyst at the University of Kansas’s career center. “Now, we have someone creating dashboards and syncing data,” Testani says. “We can determine who’s seeing us,” he adds, referring to the Career Center website, as well as “what kinds of students are seeing us and how often, and how many alumni are we engaging. It’s a big part of what we do.”

Newton uses Tableau, a Seattle-based software company that produces interactive data visualization products focused on business intelligence. The information, which is public and available on the Career Center’s website, shows the first destinations of the Class of 2016 and helps the University, current and prospective students, as well as employers to better understand what can be done with a Rochester education.

A student or alumnus “can go online and see that, just because you have an English degree or a psychology degree, it doesn’t mean you have to work for a certain company,” Newton says.

She compiles her data by sending surveys to recent University graduates, consulting with faculty and staff, gathering information supplied by the National Student Clearinghouse (a nonprofit organization that tracks data on graduates who are continuing their education), and checking student profiles on LinkedIn.

“The goal is to make better decisions utilizing data,” Newton says. “For example, we know that 25 percent of recent graduates have stayed in the Rochester area. How are we setting them up for success in Rochester?”

Greg Munves

Greg Munves ’04, president of 1010data in New York City. The technology company has hired at least 10 Rochester graduates.

The data is also helpful for companies who contact the Career Center looking to recruit students.

“We can tell them what a competitive offer is,” Newton says.

It’s also important information for parents of undergraduates.

“You can see that going here pays off,” she adds. “It’s a huge investment, and parents want to know that there will be a return on that investment.”

It’s not a perfect system. Of the 637 graduates who are working, fewer than 200 reported their salary.

“We need graduates to be filling out the survey,” Newton says. “My hope is that, once they see how helpful our data is, they’ll want to be part of it.”

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average salary of a recent graduate from a four-year institution is $50,000, making Rochester above average. One reason for the impressive salary figure is the University has established programs in fast-developing (and high-paying) fields such as data science. The new Georgen Institute for Data Science oversees a major as well as a master’s degree program in the field. In the fall of 2015, 26 graduate students and 30 undergraduates enrolled. So far, demand for graduates is greater than supply.

“We’ve had more contacts with alumni that are in recruiting positions or at companies wanting to hire data science students than we have with students themselves,” Testani says.

One major company that keeps knocking on the University’s door is 1010data, a New York-based company dedicated to big-data discovery and data sharing. The company president is Greg Munves ’04, who majored in economics and eagerly recruits Rochester graduates. He’s hired 10, including two from the Class of 2016. In addition, Dan Horowitz ’05 is a senior vice president for engineering and John Pershing ‘10 is a distinguished software developer.

Munves expects even more Rochester alumni to join the firm.

“Before data science, we were looking for computer scientists,” he says. “But now, they’re training students in the skills we need.”

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