Betsy Podkawa

Data Scientist
State Farm® Enterprise Data and Analytics
Research and Development Center
Bradley Graduate, 2016: Mathematics

After graduation, Betsy earned a Master’s degree in Statistics at the University of Illinois, while working as an intern for State Farm. She now works as a Data Scientist as part of the Natural Language Processing Center of Excellence. Her work contributes to efforts to increase the company’s efficiency and improve customer service.

When asked about the biggest benefit of her time in the Honors Program, Betsy recalled:

Diversity. As a smaller university, I always seemed to have the same classmates in my major courses at Bradley which was definitely beneficial when forming study groups and gaining camaraderie within my major, but it left somewhat of a gap in working with people from other fields. My honors courses, however, provided me opportunities to learn how to work and communicate with a more diverse group of individuals from varying educational backgrounds - technical, non-technical, freshmen, seniors, etc. Honors seminars, in particular, also provided me with opportunities to explore topics not necessarily related to my major and get me comfortable discussing topics I was less familiar with. As a data scientist, I am in a heavily technical field and work daily with others performing similar work, but I am also in constant contact with individuals from various departments who have little knowledge of statistics or deal with a technical side that I don't have a strong background in. In the real world, projects aren't often in their own isolated field, but rather require thorough communication with a diverse group of people. Whether it was debating the cultural significance of the iconic Star Trek series, discussing the spread of pandemic viruses, or engaging an assorted audience in a persuasive speech, the Honors Program gave me a head start in developing the skills necessary to work in a diverse environment.

And what specific events stand out where your experience in the Honors Program was particularly beneficial?

During my first semester as an intern for State Farm, my manager had the interns interview each other to get to know one another. One of the topics was to find something we had in common with the person we were interviewing. Most people ended up talking about their appreciation for a particular food or TV show, but the intern I was paired with was really interested in classical music. My recent honors seminar on The Great Romantics provided me with enough content to continue the conversation, and we found that we had the same favorite classical composer - Chopin.

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Betsy Podkawa