He may not use a camera or write pithy prose, but Daniel Scott ’20, G’21 crafts compelling narratives that have a real-world impact. As a graduate student in applied data science, Scott channels the power of information science to tell stories that help people make critical decisions on topics ranging from corporate policy to public health initiatives.
A natural communicator with an artistic bent, Scott had initially planned to study communications in college. His eyes were opened to the vast landscape of possibilities in information technology and data science when a representative of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) visited his high school in Stony Brook, New York. He enrolled in the iSchool’s information management and technology undergraduate program, where he learned to extract, analyze and present data while also enjoying electives like photography and art video.
Using business intelligence platforms and a foundation of the best practices and principles for accuracy, Scott soon began forging connections between his creative talents and his information management skills to find inspiration in developing informative and interactive presentations. He says he had a “light bulb moment” during a project where he was compiling data on the incidence of auto accidents in New York City. “I realized I had to find the narrative and present it in terms of what people would connect with, want to know and need to know, so they could make informed decisions.” Spurred by a desire to strengthen his expertise in the field, Scott enrolled in the iSchool’s applied data science master’s degree program.
Sharing Key Messages
As a graduate student, Scott also works as a part-time contact tracer for the New York State Department of Health, where he communicates with people who have been exposed to COVID-19, providing factual information and guidance on next steps. He’s played a similar data-interpretation role during internships that supplement his classroom experience. For example, during an internship as a technology risk consultant with a financial services company, he analyzed and presented information to help the firm’s leaders get a clear picture of its performance in terms of client data technology and regulatory guidelines. He has also worked with a major creative company on their website development.
I realized I had to find the narrative and present it in terms of what people would connect with, want to know and need to know, so they could make informed decisions.—Daniel Scott
Virtually everywhere, there’s a growing need for information science experts who can communicate with others outside that realm, and who understand the ethical aspects of data science practice. Although the results of information analysis might not always please the recipient—whether it’s a COVID-positive neighbor or a CEO with a data security problem—they need to hear the message, and hear it clearly. “All industries need technology,” Scott says. “I heard this going into the iSchool, and I've experienced it in the real world.” In addition to internships, the iSchool encourages students to partner with the local community through programs like the iConsult Collaborative , where they work in mini consulting groups on professional projects.
A Path to Empower Others
Scott helps spread the word about these and other opportunities in technology as president of the Black and Latinx Information Science and Technology Society (BLISTS). This student-run organization fosters connections among students interested in technology, providing computer literacy support and building a corporate and alumni network. It empowers members by exposing them to career options, minors and areas of interest in technology.
It’s also an alumni group within an alumni group, as Scott explains. “BLISTS alumni professionals help show students how they can be involved and successful in their specific fields.” Former members present mock workshops, case studies, hands-on exercises and more. “We call it wraparound support,” he says.
Founded in 1992 as an affinity group, BLISTS has grown in a diverse landscape where technology is ubiquitous. This year, the society is going national. “We are working with counterparts at peer institutions to help them build a blueprint for similar groups around the country,” Scott says. “I am incredibly proud to be a part of it.”
Scott was recently invited to serve on the iSchool’s board of advisors—one of two students on an impressive docket of alumni, faculty and partners. He is involved in the board’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) initiative led by Professor Martha A. Garcia-Murillo.
Scott says he is excited about this chance to help shape the iSchool experience for future students, while at the same time continuing to learn how individuals and companies can use data to mitigate problems. “It involves communication and compassion, understanding what’s at stake, and ultimately helping people.”