FYS: Everything is a Network

In this First Year Seminar, we took a non-traditional approach to writing and critical thinking skill development with two major group projects focused on data literacy. To do this, we approached large datasets as a type of complex text, the “reading” of which is becoming increasingly important in many 21st century professions.

1. The Wooster Connectome Project

First, we joined forces with the FYS course run by Dr. Jennifer Ison, Hidden Figures: Past, Present and Future, to create informative visuals showcasing the job choices of Wooster alumni. To do this, students worked with a large database of Wooster alumni containing information about the current job of alumni graduating with different majors (courtesy of Alumni Relations). Working in groups , students leveraged this data to create a network visualization (or network map) of Wooster majors connected to different types of jobs our alumni pursue. We called this the Wooster Connectome. This network has two types of nodes. The first type represents Wooster majors (e.g., English, Mathematics or Philosophy); the second represents job categories (as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The links between these nodes are Wooster alumni who graduated with a particular major and are pursuing a particular type of job. For example, Mathematics → Environmental Engineers may be a link in the Wooster Connectome network. Our objective in creating visualizations of this network was to teach students about:

  • the diversity of careers pursued by people with a variety of different Wooster majors, as they were exposed to unusual career choices of some of our alumni,
  • the usefulness of thinking of complex problems and big data in terms of networks,
  • the real-life challenges of manipulating large sets of data and pulling useful information from them,
  • techniques of data visualization, and showcasing the characteristics of your nodes and links in a visual way.

Winning posters:


2. The Visualization Research Project

Second, we took further advantage of the Wooster Connectome database to ask and answer research questions of interest to students. Instead of advanced statistics, however, students leveraged the power of visualization to answer their questions, and told new stories about how our alumni find their careers out in the world. Our objective for students undertaking this project was to deepen your understanding of:

  • the differences  in career choices pursued by different groups of alumni
  • the real-life challenges of manipulating large sets of multi-faceted data
  • techniques of data visualization, and showcasing the characteristics of your nodes and links in a visual way.


  1. Trends in STEM Education and Job Relatedness (Merlin Li & Rephael Berkooz)
  2. Is the West Coast Actually the Best Coast (for STEM)? (Heather Hartmann, Jack Redick & Zachary Cannon)
  3. How English Majors Have Changed Over Time (Daniel Fleming & Gabriel Melmed)
  4. Women who Major Vs. Double Major (Nia Johnson & Priscilla Ramos Rico)
  5. Wooster Alumni Math Careers Popularity Network (Antwyan Reynolds & Mark Herron)
  6. Jobs of Non-Stem Majors in California by Gender (Alex Melchert, Huikang Qian & Elliot Turner)