Engaged Learning: Michael McCarthy, Veterans Affairs in Dallas

Senior and grant recipient Michael McCarthy, a double major in statistics and mathematics, is using his knowledge to analyze data for Veterans Affairs in Dallas while covering school expenses. Receiving the Engaged Learning grant enabled him to participate in the program by replacing the salary he otherwise would earn working part time, which he needs to do to cover school expenses. McCarthy is conducting database analysis that evaluates home care support the VA Spinal Cord Injury Center provides to injured veterans.

“My experience at the VA already has begun to shape my post-graduation and career plans,” McCarthy says. “I’m now considering an applied statistics Master’s program to further my ability to assist with these types of statistical projects and use data analysis techniques to answer important questions. I’ve also become interested in biostatistics and health care data analysis.”

The Engaged Learning program resulted from work by the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Committee, created in 2009 to develop a plan to help SMU enhance its educational mission and qualify for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The Quality Enhancement Plan is a new requirement by SACS that presented a “great opportunity for SMU to coalesce around a strategic plan for improving student learning,” says committee chair Margaret Dunham, professor of computer science and engineering in the Lyle School of Engineering. QEP Committee members represented a cross section of the SMU community, from faculty and administrators to students and staff. “Engaged Learning was a concept the group embraced from the outset, with a goal of inspiring students to develop a lifelong desire to help others and their community,” Dunham adds.

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