Statistics Course Assistant wins 2022 Tutor of the Year Award

Date

04/29/22

Katy Miles, senior and student employee in Statistics, was recognized for her excellence at the 2022 Student Employee and Tutor of the Year Recognition Event, hosted by the Office of Student Financial Aid. The event, held on April 14 as part of National Student Employment Week, is designed to recognize the best and brightest student employees and tutors working on campus. Miles was one of two student employees to receive the 2022 Tutor of the Year Award. Since her sophomore year, Miles has been working with senior instructor Karle Flanagan (Statistics) and professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider (Computer Science) on STAT 107: Data Science Discovery.

Temp Radial
Temperature Radials data visualization from senior thesis work

“Katy has been working with Karle and I since Spring 2020 when she joined the course staff for STAT/CS/IS 107: Data Science Discovery, “Fagen-Ulmschneider remarked.  “In this role, she has helped hundreds of Illini learn and master data science through holding office hours, assisting in lab sections, and being one of the core developers for our free-to-consumer open-access web resource.”

Katy is one of the best undergraduate students we have ever worked with!” Flanagan added.

In addition to her duties with STAT 107, Miles has been deeply involved in a research project co-advised by both Flanagan and Fagen-Ulmschneider. Miles presented this work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium held on April 28. Miles’ poster, “Visualizing Temperature Data on Local to National Scales” is based on her senior thesis work. A public-facing visualization of the research has been made available. Miles is also a contributing author to “Historic Snowfall and Snow Depth”, a data-forward exploration of historic snowfall and snow depth across 5,000 cities in the United States. A data visualization was released publicly earlier this year.

This summer, Miles will continue to expand her research by working on visualizing large-scale datasets related to historical weather data through the Computer Science Research Experience for Undergraduate program. Miles was the recipient of the “Summer Research Award” for the Campus Honors Program, which supports this award.

"Without a doubt, Katy is one of the most exceptional seniors here on campus and it has been an honor to work with her throughout the past three years -- I'm certain she's going to change the world!" Fagen-Ulmschneider said.

Miles was gracious enough to talk to us this week about her achievements and upcoming plans.

Historical snowfall depth
Data visualization of historical snowfall depth project.

What does winning recognition for being a Tutor of the Year mean to you?

I am so honored to win this award for being a Top Tutor of the Year. With this award, I am reminded of the important role that student course assistants have in helping to create an active and engaging learning environment in the classroom. Student course assistants and tutors have a unique opportunity to have a peer relationship with the students in a course which can facilitate empathetic and personal teaching, which is an opportunity I truly have enjoyed taking advantage of while being a course assistant for STAT 107.

You are a highly motivated person, what is it that keeps pushing you forward?

My passion for the projects I'm working on keeps me moving forward. I really have grown to love the work I do with Karle and Wade in being a course assistant as well as creating climate visualizations for the Institute of Interactive Visualization Systems. I love being able to use knowledge I have learned in my courses and experiences at UofI and apply it to real world projects such as impactful visualizations.

What is in store for you in the near future?

Next year I will be attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO to purse a graduate degree in Statistics. While attending CSU, I will be a teaching assistant for undergraduate statistics courses. I am eager to apply the enthusiasm for teaching that Karle and Wade have taught me through STAT 107 to courses at CSU.

What advice would you like to share with new students or students looking to follow your example?

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give to up-and-coming students would be to dive into what you're passionate about. Personally, I am passionate about applying statistics to environmental and climatic topics and being able to effectively communicate statistical findings to a wide audience. It perfectly fell into place that I found out that Wade and Karle were interested in developing climate centered visualizations during a conversation we had while I was a CA for STAT 107. It was this shared interest that fostered a relationship and I'm so thankful for their supervision and advising. I think that this progression, of finding something that motivates you and then connecting with faculty who are also motivates by the same thing, is what will foster the best relationships and projects instead of seeking out work with faculty before finding a topic you're passionate about.

Anything you would like to add?

I would like to sincerely thank Wade and Karle for nominating me for this award and for supporting me over the past three years while I have been a CA for STAT 107. They bring an enthusiasm and passion to everything they do that is contagious and has propelled me to be the best CA I can be. 

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