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Wakako Sugata

Morioka, Japan

Data Science Major, International Relations Major

Wakako is one of the first Knox College students to major in data science.

Wakako with a white blouse and a black blazer stands in front of a brick building smiling

Why did you decide to major in data science?

I enjoy working with numbers, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to pursue a career in mathematics or statistics. But, through Knox’s data science major, I can obtain expertise in both computer science and mathematics/statistics. Besides, data science has applications in many other fields, including my other major, international relations. When I came to Knox, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, but I knew that I wanted to study something related to international relations. 

What academic opportunities have you pursued that furthered your academic interests?

I did a summer research project with Professor Forsberg on electoral forensics, which was related to both of my majors: data science and international relations. We worked on a beta-binomial regression analysis to test for differential invalidation in the 2021 Mongolian presidential election. I learned how statistical analysis can be applied in political science research. Since I want to work as a data analyst in the political science field in the future, the skills I obtained in this research project will definitely help me long term. 

Additionally, I went to Meknes, Morocco, in the fall semester of 2021 to study Arabic and international relations. The study abroad program took us to so many cities in Morocco, and it was very interesting to see how different cities have very different history, art, and culture. I lived with my host family and two other American students, and we learned how to make Moroccan cuisine from our host mom. I took a class called Geopolitical Conflict in Western and Arab News Media. Learning about politics and media from a non-Western perspective definitely expanded my knowledge in international relations as I usually only receive education from Western perspectives.

What are the greatest challenges you have faced in studying the data science major? 

Taking computer science classes is always challenging for me and something I still find difficult. Asking Red Room tutors, teacher assistants (TAs), and professors for help allowed me to overcome many difficult computer science assignments. Many TAs and tutors have been very patient with me and helped me until I understood. People are very helpful at Knox, and everyone wants to help others. 

Which Knox experiences have been the most beneficial to you? 

I enjoyed taking STAT 223: Applied Analytics with Professor Hastings

Working on in-class projects in his classes made me realize how much I like data analysis and how much I want to pursue it as a career. Especially in his STAT 223 class, it was very helpful for me to learn how to effectively communicate the result of an analysis in writing. 

What are your favorite campus event activities?

My favorite event at Knox is the International Fair. I served as an organizer of the International Fair for two years: my sophomore year as public relations chair and my junior year as one of the co-presidents. So, being able to take part in the planning of my favorite event at Knox has been a fantastic experience for me. Last year was exceptionally challenging for everyone, including the I-Club exec members, but everyone put in a lot of work to make the I-Fair a success and I believe that we were able to accomplish that. 

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in going to Knox?

If you’re not sure what you want to study right now, don’t worry. There will be plenty of opportunity for you to pursue your passion, with guidance from supportive professors. Knox provides us with numerous opportunities and resources to help us discover that.

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Printed on Sunday, July 14, 2024