New Directions for Data: Fall 2021 Community Leadership Internship Reflection

A screenshot of a video created during the internship, showcasing the new Pittsburgh DataWorks website

Hi everyone! My name is Jackson Filosa, and I am a current junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Statistics and English Writing. This past summer I had the privilege of undertaking a Community Research Fellowship, where I worked with Pittsburgh DataWorks to create a series of videos about data analysis to be used for the Pittsburgh Data Jam. After a successful summer that ended with the premiere of six videos on the Pittsburgh DataWorks website, I am happy to report that the work has not stopped there! This past fall I have continued working with Pittsburgh DataWorks as a Community Leadership Intern, where I have expanded and improved upon my summer project and advised new Data Jam mentors. At the conclusion of the fall semester, I’m here to post a brief reflection about what this continued partnership has looked like, and where it will continue to go.

This fall, working on this project was particularly exciting as the University of Pittsburgh underscored the importance of data education by making the 2021-2022 academic year the “Year of Data and Society.” In addition, Pittsburgh DataWorks received a large grant from the NorthEast Big Data Hub to continue expanding its influence into other states and rebranded their annual data competition as the DataJam. At a time when many associate the term “big data” with big corporations tracking their every move to make money, it was inspiring to be working on a project with an organization at a larger academic institution all seeking to use the incredible tool of data for good in society. 

The first component of my project was to continue making video resources for the Pittsburgh DataWorks website. The first new video was a walkthrough of the new Pittsburgh DataWorks website (redesigned over the summer by Pitt Computer Science student and Data Jam mentor Lucas Troy) to increase accessibility for future users. A new wrinkle for this fall, however, was the “leadership” component of the internship. After spending the summer researching optimal practices for educational videos and receiving feedback from students and teachers on the videos, I was able to advise new Data Jam mentors who were creating video resources of their own. From all the experience I had accumulated over the summer and fall, I was able to offer nuanced advice about things like editing tricks, optimal video length, and the video creation process that allowed these mentors to improve their own video resources for students.

Throughout this process, I was grateful to have the continued guidance of Dr. Everett Herman and Stacie Dow from the Pitt Honors College. Alongside fellow CLI recipients Tony Robol and Mary McMahon (check out their blog posts to see the awesome things they did!), we reviewed leadership theories and the directions we wanted to take our projects. As always, the support of Dr. Cameron at Pittsburgh DataWorks was unwavering and incredibly beneficial to this project.  

Going forward, in the Spring 2022 semester I will continue to work with the DataJam as a mentor, including some of the newest teams from the expansion of the DataJam into the Northeast. The spring is always a very exciting time for the DataJam as all the projects come together and the presentation of results at the DataJam Finale is a can’t miss event! I also hope to continue advising new Data Jam mentors this spring, including those applying for the Community Research Fellowship for Summer 2022. Whether it is brainstorming ideas, giving video tips, or proofreading applications, I hope to be as good of a resource to them as Dr. Cameron was for me when I first applied last spring and started on this incredible journey. The community within Pittsburgh DataWorks and within the cohorts for the CRF and CLI is something that has truly made this experience an incredible opportunity to learn and grow. I can’t wait to continue creating new connections, helping the next generation of projects come to life, and taking data in new directions.

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