Cohort alum NaLette Brodnax (BSBA ’03) leverages policy expertise to revitalize the program’s scorecard.

NaLette Brodnax (BSBA ’03)
NaLette Brodnax (BSBA ’03)

As data science proliferates every sector of business, it has taken an increasingly vital role in molding the Honors Cohort’s agenda. In response, the Honors Cohort’s Alumni Advisory Council recently formed a new data analytics committee with the goal of providing Cohort students with even sharper tools to navigate a world as complex and opportunistic as ours.

“The challenge is not in the data we need to collect, but in how we choose to interpret the data that we do have,” stated NaLette Brodnax, assistant professor of data science at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

A member of the Cohort’s 5th class, Brodnax graduated from Fisher with a degree in finance in 2003. She worked in corporate finance for ten years but “did not find the path to CFO compelling.” She had participated in an internship through Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs as a senior in college, and upon reflecting on that experience, recognized that she was curious about the inner workings of policy.

After receiving her joint doctorate in public policy and political science from Indiana University, she gained valuable experience as a data science consultant during a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard. Half-way through the two-year fellowship, she left to join the faculty of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. It was a difficult choice but McCourt was one of the few policy schools tapping into data science.

“Teaching is a new challenge but I am really passionate about what I am teaching. I have done quite a bit of data science consulting, and I try to bring that real-world experience to my students,” Brodnax explained. Currently, her students are assembling tools that analyze housing and traffic data to highlight sites that may be vulnerable to illegal construction.

Brodnax enjoys working in higher education as her passion lies in education policy. “We have an unequal educational system in this country and it fuels many other issues.” Brodnax went onto describe occupational segregation, or the concentration of women in lower paying fields. “Data shows that women live longer than men. When you couple that with the fact that they are paid less, it co

Cohort alum NaLette Brodnax (BSBA ’03) leverages policy expertise to revitalize the program’s scorecard.

mpounds the problem,” Brodnax detailed.

In her eyes, technology holds the key. “Technology is pervasive. It does not matter where your interests lie; there is almost always a technological component to it.” Her research focuses on narrowing the gender pay gap by preparing women with the skills needed to excel in technology-focused real-world applications.

One challenge is that “women are more risk-averse than men. Even if they are interested in technology, they are less inclined to switch majors.” Surveys indicate that women are more interested in technology as they progress through college. Brodnax wondered, “how might those individuals and our communities benefit if we introduced women to these opportunities early on?” She then developed an intervention at Georgetown that encourages women to test the waters and take one technology class as a freshman.

As she continues to dig for these answers, Brodnax could not help but consider what she could bring or study to drive the Cohort program forward.

“I have applied the skills I got in Cohort everywhere. It gave me the foundation to my career,” Brodnax said. Now, she intends to return the favor.

“The diversity of the program can improve. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to get involved. We have to represent what the world looks like,” Brodnax asserted.

As a member of the data analytics committee, her specific goal is to support the other committees in the advisory council, by supplying them with the data-driven insights they need to grasp how the program stacks up against the best across the country.

Brodnax and her team are focused on inspiring work, and the Cohort community is confident that those efforts will develop better leaders in both current and future students.

NaLette Brodnax