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MSBA Student Spotlight: David Holt

July 24, 2018

David Holt came to the Haslam College of Business in 2015 as an undergraduate student after a 13-year career in the US Army. He grew up overseas, but when his family returned to the U.S., they came back to Knoxville.

“I have a very University of Tennessee-centric family,” he says. “This is home, and even in the army I knew one day I’d come back to UT.”

Holt served as an intelligence officer in the army, helping to transition from using long written reports to utilizing data gathered from the battlefield.

“That got me into data visualization and storytelling,” he says. “When I was looking at what I wanted to study, analytics stuck out to me.”

As an undergraduate, Holt became involved with the Masters Investment Learning Center (MILC).

“When I first came to school, I was significantly older than everyone else and already had a career for close to a decade and a half,” he says. “I was making good grades but not interacting with anyone.”

Laura Cole, senior lecturer and director of the MILC, encouraged Holt to get involved with the center after seeing his score on the Bloomberg Aptitude Test.

“She gave me a job at the MILC and that dragged me into the life of the college, which had a profound effect on my enjoyment of school and definitely led me to continue my education here,” he says.

Today, Holt is an MSBA student and expects to graduate in December 2018.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here and the faculty are among my favorite people at UT,” he says. “The undergraduate program provides a good foundation with a strong focus on how to keep from misinterpreting data, which is very important. The masters program takes that a step further — not just how you’d be able to do the analysis, but what that analysis means in the context of a holistic business situation.”

Holt became a research assistant at Y-12 National Security Complex in 2017 and continues as a machine learning researcher at the site.

“I’m applying the techniques of machine learning to the area of cybersecurity,” he says. “Specifically, I’m writing algorithms to determine whether or not a person’s actions on a given day are in keeping with their usual patterns.”

After graduation, Holt hopes to either remain at Y-12 while pursuing his Ph.D. or continue forecasting demand for manufacturing as a statistical consultant.

“I particularly enjoy looking at parallel problems, not just predicting one thing but hundreds of similar things,” he says. “I love the idea of giving a company an ongoing reporting mechanism that will solve the problem for longer than just this quarter—that’s something I definitely plan on employing in the future.”