Alumni Spotlight – Evan Kodra

April 9, 2014

Evan Kodra, a 2011 graduate of the University of Tennessee Master’s in Statistics program, recently contacted us to let us know how his degree has been helping him in his professional and academic career.  In only two short years after graduating Evan will be a Lead Data Scientist at Affectiva, an MIT spinoff company that focuses on gaining consumer insights through facial expression recognition technology. His work has had a direct impact on substantial revenue and client relations.

In addition to making significant business impacts, Evan has also been successful in the world of academia, and is a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary engineering program at Northeastern University in Boston. On February 13, 2014, Evan successfully defended his thesis in climate change, a completely different field from the one he works in at Affectiva.  Evan found a passion for climate statistics when he interned at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory during his summer break at UT.  It was there he met his future PhD advisor, Auroop Ganguly.

Looking back on his past successes and experiences, Evan realized how unique the UTK MS program is.  Not only does it offer a superb statistical education, offering classes that prepared him for his current role, such as time series and regression, UTK really taught the “intangibles,” as Evan says:

…I really felt better prepped to find the problem, act in a client centric way, and deliver solutions that really address problems — rather than just do advanced methods for the sake of doing so which I think is a common red herring…

Evan feels that the University of Tennessee Master’s program graduates have a unique advantage over other program graduates.  Math is not the sole emphasis for the program at the UTK; it’s the desire and ability to solve difficult problems and communicate well.  It is this “intangible” asset, to be able to empathize and understand problems, along with the meaningful advice he received from his professors and advisor, that have truly helped Evan be successful in his career and prepare him for future challenges.