The humanity in data analysis

Family and human development alum passionate about using data to solve social problems

February 14, 2023

Although she didn’t always have a chosen career in mind, former Sun Devil Courtney Stowers knew she loved two things: math and people. 

As a first-year student at Arizona State University, Stowers thought she would end up either a pediatric allergist or a middle school math teacher. There didn’t seem to be many other careers that could combine the two vastly different topics. Portrait of ASU alum Courtney Stowers. ASU alum Courtney Stowers works as a data analyst for a nonprofit organization that focuses on evaluating and improving health care quality at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Photo courtesy Courtney Stowers

Then Stowers discovered family and human development.

After enrolling in science and education classes, she realized she needed to try something else, so she took on a class in human development as a half-semester replacement. She enjoyed it more than expected.

“Human development covered all the topics that had originally drawn me to health care and education, but it also incorporated research studies that involved statistical charts and reports. I immediately fell in love!” she says. 

After taking one course, Stowers changed her major to family and human development, then added a degree in applied quantitative science shortly after. The two perfectly paired her love of numbers and people. 

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After completing her dual degrees, Stowers didn’t want to stop, so she completed a master’s degree program in program evaluation and data analytics in 2020. Now she works as a data analyst for a nonprofit organization that focuses on evaluating and improving health care quality at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Her day-to-day work includes using data to evaluate patient safety, provider quality and demographic disparities. 

“I thoroughly enjoy the problem-solving aspect of my work,” she says. “Writing code and queries is a lot like solving word problems. I also like knowing that my work has a real-world impact on patients and health care providers who benefit from safer, more equitable health care facilities.”

Stowers says she is extremely satisfied with her career and still gets excited to analyze data sets in her spare time. As a volunteer, she has analyzed urban forests and the environment, voter engagement, policy advocacy and even her favorite music genres on Spotify. 

Her experiences in the family and human development program were critical to her career, she says. 

“Understanding the aging process and the various health concerns that are relevant to older adults has been very beneficial in comprehending some of the direct and indirect factors that impact the vulnerable populations that CMS serves," she says. "It’s helpful to have social context behind the need for the evaluations that ensure older and underserved patients receive the best care possible.”

Stowers is proof that students can combine all kinds of interests to pursue an interdisciplinary career. Almost three years after graduating, she encourages students to pursue what truly interests them, even if the career pathway isn’t yet clear. 

“I liked people and I also liked numbers,” she says. “I think you’ll find that there are a lot of niches out there and there are a lot of intersections between topics that you’re interested in.”

Stowers also advises current students who are having difficulty finding a suitable career to reach out to ASU’s career services department.

“ASU has a really great career services department. When I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, I reached out and they had … all these different advisors that specialize in different topics and they can help guide you on how to turn that passion into a career."

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

ASU Music Learning and Teaching to host national symposium on music education

February 14, 2023

The Desert Skies Music Symposium on Research in Music Education, one of the longest continuously running independent research forums of its kind in the United States, will be held at Arizona State University Feb. 16–18. 

The symposium is open to college and university faculty, pre-K–12 music educators, teaching artists and community music educators and provides a forum for presentations of research about music teaching and learning in any context.  Student wearing headphones playing a keyboard as an instructor watches. The Desert Skies Music Symposium on Research in Music Education, one of the longest continuously running independent research forums of its kind in the United States, will be held at Arizona State University Feb. 16–18. Download Full Image

The conference focuses on persistent questions in education, the arts and culture and is open to a broad range of presenters and researchers from across the United States. The conference schedule and sessions are designed to be interactive, with opportunities to be in dialogue with one another about urgent matters in the music education field, particularly matters of justice, inclusion and diversity.

Keynote speakers include Lois Brown, Foundation Professor of English and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and Warren H. Stewart Sr., senior pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix.

“This conference is unique to music learning and teaching in a number of ways, including cultivating an encouraging space for emerging scholars (i.e., doctoral students and early-career scholars) to share their work and receive constructive feedback,” said Joyce McCall, assistant professor of music learning and teaching in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and Desert Skies National Board member.

McCall said this approach is not always available in other music learning and teaching conferences. She said the conference also has a unique approach to how presenters share their work. Instead of sharing their work through a traditional lecture style, presenters do so in small groups.

“This was intentional in its design in that this conference aims to foster community, support and also give attendees opportunities to connect with a wealth of scholars and teachers in the United States and abroad,” McCall said.

The planning committee for the symposium includes McCall, Sandra Stauffer, vice dean of the academic enterprise in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, and Matthew Fiorentino, assistant professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

The committee planned the logistics for the conference, including selecting the two keynote speakers to further efforts to instigate social action in music education.

“By design, this conference widens its doors in ways that traditional conferences in the music education field do not,” McCall said. “This is especially important for emerging scholars, particularly those whose spaces may not foster or support research that does not reflect white, Western or Anglo epistemological and/or ontological perspectives. One of several of the goals of this conference is encourage work that is creative, thoughtful, intellectually engaging and transformative.”

The symposium, founded in 1989 by the music education faculty of the University of Arizona, moved to ASU in 2017 and is held in February of odd-numbered years. Desert Skies 2023 is made possible in part by sponsorship from ArtsWork: The Kax K. Herberger Center for Children and the Arts.

ASU faculty, staff and students can attend the conference, keynote speakers' presentations or any session for free with registration.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre