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Third annual DataFest marked a weekend of hard work, fun, and inter-collegiate engagement

by Melanie Moyer,

Best Statistical Analysis/Model and Best Overall winners from Willamette (Charlie Wiebe BA’25, Meelad Doroodchi BA’24, and Jace Higa BA’26, respectively).

The third annual DataFest was Willamette’s largest to date, with undergraduate participants from Willamette University, Lewis & Clark College, George Fox University, Pacific University, Oregon State University, and Linfield University participating in the challenge. Teams of two to five students toiled from Friday to Sunday, analyzing complex, real-world dataset with support from mentors, professors, and subject area experts to compete for prizes in three distinct categories.

The third annual DataFest was Willamette’s largest to date

“It's so important for students to have these types of experiential and transformative learning opportunities,” said Heather Kitada Smalley, event organizer and Albaugh Assistant Professor of Statistics and Data Science. “Putting it on isn’t part of the duties of my job; it’s truly a labor of love!”

The American Bar Association (ABA) supplied conversations from their online pro-bono legal services to DataFests country-wide. Participants worked to find patterns and trends the ABA could use to create need-specific resources and bolster their outreach strategies. This was exciting for Willamette in particular, as it allowed them to call on resident subject matter experts from Willamette’s College of Law, Karen Sandrik, Associate Dean for Faculty and Professor of Law, and Yvonne Tamayo, University Counsel and Professor of Law.

Mentoring and counsel were also available to the teams, with Masters of Data Science students and professors from participating universities providing support. This included several familiar faces from previous years, including the president of the Data Analytics Club, Hayden Vaughn BA‘23 MS’23, and 2021’s DataFest winner, Oscar Wecker BA‘21, who was also one of the five judges.

The judging panel came from three different schools, reflecting a diverse array of academic disciplines, including Jeffrey Dobbins, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Willamette College of Law; Melodye MacAlpine, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Administration at Willamette College of Law; Kristen Gore, Assistant Professor of Data Science at Willamette; Walker Orr, Associate Professor of Computer Science at George Fox University, and Wecker.

Winners of the different categories included:

Best Statistical Analysis/Model and Best Overall: Meelad Doroodchi BA’24, Jace Higa BA’26, and Charlie Wiebe BA’25 (Willamette University)

Best Insight Category: Mira Karthik BA’24, Will Reeves BA’23, and Ryan Strobel BA’24 (Willamette University)

Best Data Visualization: Connor Taylor, Carson Casey, Noelle Knipe, and Austin Wiebe(George Fox University)

Each winner received a membership to the American Statistics Association from the Willamette Masters of Data Science program, giving them access to networking databases, job and internship listings, professional resources, and community pages.

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