Making the Grade: KSU program preps grads to be data experts

By H.M. Cauley - For the AJC   Anyone who’s ever had a “just for you” movie…

Georgia (Apr 15, 2015)By H.M. Cauley - For the AJC


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Anyone who’s ever had a “just for you” movie appear on Netflix or a song selection pop up on Pandora has a sense of what Jennifer Priestley’s work is about. As director of Kennesaw State University’s Center for Statistics and Analytical Services, the Ph.D. and her master’s students in Applied Statistics crunch data about actual projects brought to them by real companies. It’s not only a learning experience; it’s often a glimpse into what life on the job will look like.

“We use real-world projects, data and questions that are messy, complex and unstructured,” explained Priestley. “Students get a feel for what it’s like to have to take dozens of complex, mismatched, unstructured files and write the code to extract the data, clean the files and merge the data. Sometimes it takes weeks to get it to the point where we can analyze it, but it’s an amazing experience.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit