Q&A with CDS Advising
By Melina Nguyen, COM'25
Now that the spring 2024 semester is officially underway, it's important for BU Computing & Data Sciences undergraduate students to learn about CDS Advising and the variety of available resources.
In this Q&A, we sat down with CDS Advisors Colleen Kenney, assistant director of Undergraduate Academic Advising, Lakyn Bright, and Elizabeth Carter, advisors with Undergraduate Academic Advising, to unwrap some of the most common questions asked by CDS undergraduates.
How do you get involved at CDS?
With a building comprised of 17 floors bustling with activity, students often ask about data science student clubs and activities. Kenney said clubs are great ways to expand students’ social and academic horizons. And there is no better place to start than with BU Spark!, CDS' experiential learning lab, she said.
“Getting involved in BU Spark! is a great way to connect with peers with similar interests,” she said. "Spark! hosts a lot of events including a weekly 'Cookie O'Clock' student social, TechTalks, and Hackathons."
Other student clubs include CDS Student Government, and Kappa Theta Pi, a professional technology fraternity. CDS also hosts a variety of talks and student-focused events and programs — from the Industry Connections lecture series to Game Night, Yoga Night, and more. If you are in the market for student employment opportunities, there are several open positions.
How do you make friends?
Navigating BU's massive urban campus is no easy task. It takes time. It's important to remember that you are in the same boat as thousands of other students, advisors said.
“Just saying ‘hi’ is really a great way to break the ice," Kenney said. "A lot of people are too scared to do it, but that's all you have to do.”
CDS advisors are the biggest student cheerleaders. They open their door to students to discuss academics and build personal connections.
Elizabeth Carter, a CDS undergraduate academic advisor, said their goal is to support students and learn about them at a holistic level.
“I want students to be able to come to me and talk about classes, talk about their experiences,” they said. “Tell me simply cool, fun things around campus that you can do and that you’ve enjoyed.”
What should I do academically?
Many freshmen come into college with a four-year plan in hand with the exact timeline that they swear to. However, students should be open to new experiences and to interruptions along the way.
Kenney said students are encouraged to explore a data science minor for professional and personal enrichment. “Ideally, though, it will be in the area that they may be interested in working post graduation,” she said. “It could be something that they just truly enjoy, so you can definitely double minor and have the best of both worlds.”
I want to learn more about transferring to CDS. What is the transfer experience like?
All three advisors have personally gone through transitions to arrive at the CDS advising team. Lakyn Bright, a CDS undergraduate academic advisor, said the transition from a small town to big city university is both intimidating and exciting. She knows because she experienced it first hand.
“I think just getting to know other people who might be doing the same thing is really important,” she said. “They may share a common experience, relocating to a big bustling city from a small town, for example. Widening your network helps a lot.”
Bright also suggests grabbing a friend and exploring Boston. It is a lot easier to explore with a buddy versus venturing out into the city alone.
My Perspective: Colleen Kenney (she/her)
Colleen’s advising background includes holding an advising position University of Utah where she worked with engineering and computer science students, but working in Computing & Data Sciences, specifically at Boston University, was her goal.
“I actually came to BU for the CDS program,” said Kenney. “Once I realized that I wanted to come to the East Coast, I was drawn to the data science experience – where classes are all taught with a data-driven mindset.”
When reflecting on her college experience, Kenney said she chose advising as a career because of her experience personal experience as an undergraduate.
“There weren’t really advisors when I was in college, and I wanted to make a difference,” she said.
My Perspective: Elizabeth Carter (she/they)
Elizabeth is a 2022 college graduate, so they remember the undergraduate experience like it was just yesterday.
A three-time BU employee, Carter's journey at BU began as a wet lab assistant. They also held a short stint as a COVID nasal swabber.
Due to their unconventional background and the experiences it accompanied, they understand “normal STEM student problems” and other BU-related inquiries.
“I know how employment works at BU, so if students are looking at post-graduate plans, but wanting to stay in the community here, I know how that works,” said Carter, who holds a degree in biology with minors in math, chemistry and art history. “I know how it might feel transitioning between different STEM fields, so I have tangential data science experience and applications.”
My Perspective: Lakyn Bright (she/her)
Bright's journey in academic advising began with social work at a nonprofit organization. With a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science, her academic and professional foundation brought her to the advising team at the University of Utah.
Bright said she is excited to engage in academic advising appointments as well as attend CDS events like yoga night, Barn Babies, CDS Game Night. She particularly enjoys discussing HUB classes and academic experiences because she gets to connect with students and learn about their interests.
“Students can come to my office, share their semester experiences, and we can work together to plan their course load,” she said.
Bright and the Advising Team also understand the importance of students' overall wellbeing and the availability of resources to help students navigate their BU journey.
“We’re a little less intimidating than faculty,” she said. “You can stop in my office and grab a treat and talk with me and tell me how your day went. I’m going to love it just as much as I would like helping you through your program.”
Learn more about CDS Undergraduate Advising, office hours, resources, and tutoring opportunities.