How One Roux Data Analytics Graduate Created Her Ideal Career

When Courtney Bloniasz began her Master of Professional Studies in Analytics at Northeastern’s Roux Institute, she started to envision her ideal job – one that combined her passion for mission-based work with the storytelling and strategic visualization capabilities of data analytics. The problem was, a job like that didn’t exist in her current organization.

Bloniasz’s solution? She created it.

Bloniasz’s journey from graduate school to ideal job started during the upheaval of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the nature of her job at Bowdoin College, and Bloniasz decided it was the right time to pursue the next chapter of her education. She knew she wanted to stay in the nonprofit world and couldn’t stop thinking about an analytics class she took during her undergraduate years at Smith College, and how those skills might apply to mission-based work.

As she browsed graduate programs with strong industry focus and R1 research designations, Bloniasz heard some version of the same refrain over and over: You’ll probably have to leave Maine to find what you’re looking for. But when she learned about the Roux Institute through her roommate, she was surprised that it checked all her boxes: it was a STEM-focused school with a strong emphasis on research and experiential learning, it worked closely with Maine-based organizations to help amplify impact, and it had an analytics program. By spring of 2021, Bloniasz had been accepted into the program of her choice with a generous scholarship from the Alfond Scholars Initiative. Only a year after that, she landed a job in the philanthropy arm of Maine Medical Center, whose parent organization, MaineHealth, is a close partner of the Roux Institute.

Courtney Bloniasz, who earned her master's degree in data analytics at Northeastern University's Roux Institute, took the skills she learned in the class room and applied them to her job at MaineHealth.

If Bloniasz’s three-year journey through her master’s program is a testament to anything, it’s the power of the support and resources available at the Roux Institute to shape community and careers. Bloniasz started her program in a cohort of 8 students all from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. During orientation, faculty encouraged them to build a data community here in Maine, and the group took that challenge to heart. They started to meet up before and after classes to help each other with coursework and troubleshooting their code. They signed up for all their classes together, and, over the next three years, formed a strong bond and a consistent routine: A nearby pizza restaurant, Brickyard Hollow, would often have their order of pizza and drinks waiting for them by the time they showed up for their weekly after-class debrief.

It was that group of fellow students, Bloniasz said, that introduced her to careers in data and technology, helped her navigate professional hurdles, and encouraged her to build her career in Maine. They also challenged her to leverage the skills she was learning in their analytics courses to expand her role at Maine Medical Center.

“They were Team Courtney all the way,” she jokes. “It was so meaningful to have a supportive group of people cheering me on.”

Her analytics courses made it easy to translate the skills she was learning in class directly to her work at MaineHealth.

“I would take similar datasets and operations challenges from work, mask them for privacy, and then use them for homework and class projects. So I was getting a grade, but also completing these projects and gaining experience in creating solutions that were making a direct impact for my team,” she says. She particularly highlighted a data visualization class with Professor Shannon Cole, where she learned to create dynamic dashboards to tell visual stories using data, something she immediately applied at her job. Her team at MaineHealth recognized the impact her Roux education could have on their work and ensured she had the time and resources needed to complete her studies.

And, most importantly, it was the faculty and staff at the Roux, particularly Professor Prashant Mittal alongside her manager Bethany Winslow, that helped her eventually draft, propose, and ultimately create a new role within her organization, where she now uses data analytics and project management skills to strategically manage operations and enhance systems. Bloniasz says that in philanthropy, data analytics paints a clearer, more impactful picture of giving so her team can better align the relationship between community generosity and critical healthcare needs.

Every single point of data I work with is tied to a life, a memory, a mission, or a passion someone cares deeply about. So much of what I was learning at the Roux was how to process this data with care, without losing these stories and the bigger picture.

Courtney Bloniasz

Master's of Data Analytics Graduate

Northeastern University

“Every single point of data I work with is tied to a life, a memory, a mission, or a passion someone cares deeply about,” she explained. “So much of what I was learning at the Roux was how to process this data with care, without losing these stories and the bigger picture.”

Bloniasz is the first to emphasize that none of this would be possible without the community and support she cultivated at the Roux Institute.

“If I have one piece of advice for incoming Roux students, it’s to lean into the community and resources that surround you there. We’re not competing but growing together” she says.

As Bloniasz prepares to give the student address at the Roux commencement ceremony this spring, she has a lot to celebrate. Aside from a fresh graduate degree, a burgeoning career in a field she’s passionate about, and a lasting community of friends and mentors, she’s also proud of the work she’s done with Data for Social Good, a student interest group she’s a founding member of. The group, which has grown significantly since its creation 3 years ago, matches Roux graduate students with nonprofits and mission-driven organizations that may not have the funds or bandwidth to leverage their data. Students help these organizations analyze and deploy their data to secure funding , strategically plan their programing, and visualize their impact. The group is a perfect representation of what drew Bloniasz to the Roux Institute in the first place.

“What I love about the Roux is that their curriculum and mission is integrated within businesses and nonprofits in Maine’s community, and we as students get to do things that have real impact,” she says.