Wilson College Graduates Make Their Mark at The Institute for Advanced Analytics
By Mary Giuffrida
Every year, the Institute for Advanced Analytics receives over a thousand applications from all over the world. Only around a hundred of these applicants earn a spot in the Institute’s prestigious Master of Science in Analytics program.
The Institute launched the nation’s first Master of Science in Analytics. Over the course of ten months students are immersed in a cohort-based curriculum and prepared to enter the workforce with a competitive and unique data science skill set.
Despite the competitive nature of the application process, almost every class includes Wilson College of Textiles alumni. These students, whether just graduating from the Wilson College, or returning to NC State after years away, all share one thing: They are armed with a world-class textiles education which has set them apart from the other applicants.
Professor Jeff Joines, Head of the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, credits the department and the degree programs with preparing their students beyond coursework. The mindset and the skills the students learn push them to the forefront of the applicants.
“We teach our students how to do statistical analysis using real data that we’ve gotten from companies and from my own applied research,” he says. “We teach them to use information to solve problems, and we’re learning these techniques in the context of real problems.”
Real-world problem solving is at the forefront of learning for students. The college challenges them to apply their skills in the same ways they will when they enter the industry, thinking through problems critically in situations where the answer is not always perfect.
“Real-world problem solving was very much the trend across all our classes all four years. Really learning about not just, ‘This is a fiber. This is a filament,’ but also potential use cases in the industry,” says Ethan-Cole Evans, an alumnus of the college who graduated from the Institute in 2021.
Evans, who now works at Pendo.io as a data analyst, earned a B.S. in Textile Engineering from the college in 2019 before going on to the Institute the following year. His start in textile engineering is what gave him a strong foundation for success upon entering the Institute.
“We learned how to think about data not just as a static thing but as a pipeline into a bigger picture, seeing how it can change and transform throughout our process,” Evans says. “Coming from the Wilson College of Textiles, going into the program didn’t phase me. I knew I had the skills and fundamentals to help me grow.”
Kirsten Childs graduated from the college in 2011 with a B.S. in Textile Engineering and was a member of the most recent class at the Institute for Advanced Analytics. She now works for SAS as a system engineer and data scientist. For Childs, an education at the college was an influential part of preparing her for entering the Institute.
“The College of Textiles teaches you to think critically about problems and the different answers that you could have,” Childs explains. “The engineering mindset really gets you to ask the right questions and think through problems more deeply.”
Learning through real-world problems goes further than just the classroom. The college also prepares its students by helping them find opportunities in the industry to learn by doing.
“We’ve reached out to places like Hanes and gotten our students internships doing data analytics, so they have some real experience,” Joines says.
This experience working in the industry teaches students how to apply what they have learned in the classroom to situations they may not have otherwise encountered. They learn how to adapt and find solutions in creative and out of the box ways.
Through their coursework, students at the college are challenged to take leadership roles and learn what it means to effectively lead a team. This commitment to producing well-rounded students is why so many graduates of the college earn leadership positions among their peers at the Institute.
“Senior Design really teaches our students to work in teams and work on projects and be good leaders and communicators,” Joines says. “I think the combination of that is really the reason why our students have been so successful at being team leads.”
Both Evans and Childs were team leads during their time at the Institute, using their skills from the college to help guide their peers and work effectively together towards a common goal.
“It helped coming from a smaller program that does a lot of group work,” Evans explains. “I was comfortable delegating tasks and also understanding how my work fits in with the rest of the group.”
“In the College of Textiles, we didn’t just write about our solutions or solve problems,” Childs says. “We had to actually present our results and that was an advantage that helped us stand out and succeed.”
And succeed they have; this year’s class of graduates from the Institute for Advanced Analytics had a 100% job placement rate by graduation. Graduates from the Institute work across industries and countries, meaning alumni of the college continue to uphold the Wilson College of Textiles’ legacy for excellence in the textile industry.