Phillips’ investment in QME PhD pays off

Alison Phillips, quantitative methods in education (QME) PhD ‘15, always knew she wanted to be a high school math teacher—until she didn’t.

“Following a two-week break after completing my B.S., I jumped right into an initial licensure program,” Phillips recalls.

“Three years and two high school teaching positions later, I realized that I would not be happy teaching long-term, she adds. “I was headed back to school.”

Phillips met with professors in several graduate programs to help decide what path she would take but was most impressed by the faculty in the QME program and their willingness to meet with her when she wasn’t sure admission to their program was even something she wanted to pursue.

Michael Rodriguez called Andy Zieffler on the spot to make sure he was teaching that summer and suggested I take EPSY 8261 as a non-degree seeking student to help me decide if QME would be a good fit for me.” Phillips continues, “I thought it was unusually helpful for a faculty member to identify which specific course I could take that would best give me an idea of the QME program as a whole.”

Phillip’s soul searching didn’t stop when she picked a graduate program. In her second year, she switched advisors to better fit the direction she saw her research going. Phillips also changed committee members once she locked-in a dissertation topic.

“It was important for me to realize that these sorts of changes did not ruffle any feathers,” she says. “The faculty wanted me to make changes that would support me being successful.”

Staying true to what she envisioned for her career paid off. Phillips is a senior quantitative analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In her job, she uses banking and general economic data to build risk models. These models are used in the Bank’s Supervision and Regulation division to help assess the health of the foreign and domestic banks they supervise.

Phillips advice to graduate students: know the direction you want to go in your education, and make sure it happens.

“I decided early on that my graduate school experience was only going to be good if I made it that way,” she says.