One student, five iSchool milestones

Kinjal Shah

The power of information cannot be understated. It promotes discovery, drives decision-making, empowers individuals, and provides vision for the future. The School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) uses the power of information to transform lives and society through innovative teaching, research, and engagement.

The iSchool is a leader in online education and an unrivalled choice for those keen on exploring their interdisciplinary research interests, learning from renowned faculty, and making connections with a strong alumni network. 93% of graduates are employed within three months after graduation—many of whom owe their success to the MS in Information Management program. 

Its curriculum is just as flexible as it is effective, emphasizing the intersection of people, information, and technology. At the same time, students develop the advanced skills needed to excel in a range of employment settings. Kinjal Shah from India immediately knew it was an ideal choice for developing the skills necessary to compete in the corporate job market. So far, her journey has been fruitful in every sense of the word.

A warm welcome

Shah chose the MS in Information Management to learn and explore every aspect of data. "I knew coming to the iSchool that I would thoroughly enhance the hard and soft skills I needed to thrive in the professional world," she says.

Of course, leaving home was tough. However, the university's multinational community made settling in easy. Its student body of more than 56,000 students currently represent all  50 states and over 100 countries.

Carving her own path

Since the iSchool's degree programs are broad and interdisciplinary, customization is a benefit available to all learners. For Shah, this meant designing her curriculum to realize her aspiration of evolving into a skilled data analyst and business intelligence professional.

Her STEM-designated program has only three required courses—Information Modelling (IS 515), Data, Statistical Models and Information (IS 507), Sociotechnical Information Systems (IS 504)—and an optional programming course. Which topics students choose to complement this strong foundation is entirely up to them. Of course, advisors are always ready to share valuable insights with those who need to discuss course options, options for practical experiences, and/or research opportunities.

Evolving challenges into interests

Shah isn't shy to admit that her programme's comprehensive nature can be overwhelming at times. Thankfully, 24/7 access to a world-class faculty has helped her see challenges in a new light. 

"It's safe to say that my favorite class now is Advanced Topics in Data Analytics and Data Science," she shares. "It was really difficult, but I eventually realized how helpful it was to practice thinking critically and perfect my assignments. These skills helped tremendously when it was time for me to land my dream internship."

Real-world excellence

The iSchool understands that information management encompasses far more than just coding—communication is just as important. Hence, for students to excel in both areas, experiential learning opportunities abound through extracurricular and networking activities, internships and other professional field experiences, as well as interaction with expert faculty.

When it was time for Shah to take her first steps into the workforce, she knew exactly what she was seeking to achieve her career goals. "I looked for top-rated companies and their affiliates to truly get that quality corporate experience," she says.

"In the process, I came across the data management intern position for Parametric on Morgan Stanley's career site. I applied and successfully passed multiple interview rounds. The knowledge I gained during [the iSchool's] classroom sessions came in especially handy when I began the internship itself. I was proud to have already developed analytical and interpersonal skills, as well as familiarity with current business tools."

Career confidence at its finest

Now that Shah has experienced the world of work, she is eager for more opportunities to apply her newfound knowledge while growing her list of competencies. "Almost nine weeks into my internship, I learned a ton of skills and new technologies that are used across the country in almost every company," she explains. "It's been a really great opportunity for me to strengthen my skills and work toward the future I've always wanted."

Upon graduating, Shah hopes to join a big tech company as a data/business analyst. With the confidence she developed and embraced at the iSchool, chances are there's no stopping her.

"Our Information Management program has helped students secure a range of exciting new positions across a variety of industry sectors," affirms Professor Catherine Blake. "The iSchool is very interested in growing engagement opportunities so students can see firsthand how their training can impact information science problems in the real world."

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