Alumni Profile

Monroe Farris

What inspired you to pursue an MS in data science at Georgetown?

Upon finishing my undergraduate studies, I had some data science courses under my belt through my minor in data analytics. I knew I wanted to deepen my technical skills, which prompted me to pursue my master’s in data science. I was looking for three attributes in a program: in-person classes, flexibility to work full-time while attending evening classes, and an engaging curriculum. Georgetown’s DSAN program checked all three of those boxes! 

What was the best career advice you received while in the DSAN program?

Some of the best pieces of career advice came from Professor Irina Vayndiner’s Digital Storytelling class. The class focused on presenting technical and complex information, such as machine learning models, to non-technical audiences like CEOs or upper management. Besides learning helpful presentation techniques, we gained invaluable career skills, ranging from professional email writing to navigating workplace disagreements.

Do you have any advice for current/prospective DSAN students?

Approach new courses or experiences with an open mind. Don’t hesitate to explore topics that interest you. Sometimes, preconceived notions about course difficulty or engagement can be misleading. Trust your instincts and pursue courses that intrigue you.

How did you manage your time while pursuing your MS and working full-time at MITRE?

Effective time management was essential while balancing full-time work and pursuing my master’s in the DSAN program. I utilized evenings, weekends, and even lunch breaks at work to complete assignments. While it was difficult, working full-time did have its advantages, as I was constantly immersed in coding and the data science mindset, often completing assignments quicker while also finding concepts applicable to my work at MITRE.

What advice would you give to someone considering the DSAN program?

Research the professors in the DSAN program. Are their backgrounds aligned with your interests? Professors not only teach the curriculum but also contribute to your professional network. I found the courses to become more enriching when I resonated with the professor’s experiences and insights.

What were some of your best experiences at Georgetown, both inside and/or outside of the classroom?

In addition to the great coursework in the DSAN program, I had the opportunity to participate in Georgetown’s Massive Data Institute Scholars program, which allows students to pursue data science research in various public policy-related areas. I was able to spend a semester working under a group at Georgetown Law looking into evictions in the United States. I was able to apply the skills I had been learning in the DSAN program to this new problem set providing the team with new insights. At the end of the research program, we had a showcase where we presented our work to the larger group and it was a great opportunity to supplement my DSAN studies with research. 

Outside the classroom, some of my favorite memories were those spent with my friends and classmates.

What was your favorite project that you worked on?

My favorite project was the final assignment my two classmates and I collaborated on for our natural language processing course. We adopted a distinctive approach, shifting our focus from merely fitting a machine learning model to the data at hand to questioning the necessity of solving the problem altogether. Specifically, we explored the potential of using social media as a predictor of short-term election outcomes, with the Georgia gubernatorial election at the time serving as our case study. A question we were asked was whether social media data had enough of a signal to model actual election results. After careful consideration, we determined the problem was indeed worth addressing and proceeded with a topic-modeling approach to extract insights. This methodology pushed us to delve deeper into problem-solving, closely resembling real-world challenges encountered in professional settings.

If you could have any superpower what would it be, and why?

I think flying would be pretty cool! There are a lot of places I’d like to travel to around the world and flying would make it pretty easy to explore these new areas!