JWU Data Analytics Student Wins SMART Scholarship

Xavier Elias Taitano Quinata ’23, a Data Analytics major and Psychology minor, has been awarded the Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship. This prestigious award is competitive, as it provides students with full tuition in addition to a mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and full-time employment with the Department of Defense after graduation. It’s open to all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral accredited college students who are pursuing a degree in one of the 21 STEM disciplines.

photo of Xavier Quinata posing with a smile in front of flowers and trees

Quinata, who is from the village of Yoña on the island of Guam, says he is “truly honored to represent both his home island and JWU.” He shared more about this amazing opportunity in a Q&A.

How did you hear about the SMART Scholarship?

Xavier Quinata: After getting accepted to JWU, I wanted to help my parents pay for my education, so I went to Scholarships.com, which is a free website where students can find scholarship opportunities based on their preferences and student profile. The SMART Scholarship was listed there, and after doing more research on it, I decided that I could not pass up on such a great opportunity.

logo for the SMART Scholarship competitionWhat was the process for competing for this scholarship?

The application process was very extensive, and that is something I expected from such a selective program. I had to pass an initial screening process to make sure I was even eligible for the scholarship. From there, I had to make an applicant account on their website and submit all sorts of personal information, such as work and volunteer experience, accolades, and educational background. Lastly, I had to construct an essay explaining why I applied and how I can contribute to the Department of Defense, and I had three mentors submit reference letters on my behalf. After submitting the application, it was just three long months of waiting for the award announcement!

The scholarship includes a summer internship experience working with an experienced mentor to gain technical skills. What skills are you most looking forward to acquiring?

I am really looking forward to my internship next summer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Through the internship, I hope to gain advanced skills in data collection, statistical analysis and programming.

Did you receive support from JWU when applying for the SMART Scholarship?

Yes, Professor Lapierre has been a very dedicated advisor and mentor since I started at JWU. She regularly reached out to see how I was doing and ensured that I stayed on track with my grades and graduation plan. When I told her about the scholarship, she gladly wrote a reference letter on my behalf and provided moral support as I waited for the award announcement.

You plan on working at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. after graduation. What do you see yourself doing, and how do you think you might apply skills you learned at JWU?

I see myself working in the Analysis field at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where I would be involved in conducting analyses on foreign military capabilities, intelligence threats and security risks. Although these specific fields are not covered in the Data Analytics curriculum, I believe that the technical skills and knowledge I’ve gained at JWU have provided me a solid foundation from which I can apply to the tasks of my position at the DIA.

What drew you to JWU? What passion have you found on campus? Do you have a favorite JWU experience or memory so far?

The focus JWU has on ensuring that every single student is career-ready after graduation is a quality that I admired and wanted in a university. After learning about JWU’s experiential learning curriculum, networking opportunities and career resources, I knew that I would be prepared to enter my field once I’ve graduated.

Being involved in the Rugby Club has been a passion of mine on campus because I got to meet other students and stay active while living on campus. It’s also a great physical outlet to deal with stress from school!

action shot of Xavier Quinata playing rugby at JWU

So far, my favorite memory was experiencing the first snowfall of the winter season with my friends. It was a big deal for me because I’ve lived on a tropical island my entire life before moving to Providence and never experienced snow before.

What made you choose a minor in Psychology to pair with Data Analytics? Do you see the two subjects working collaboratively?

I started off my academic career in the field of psychology, so after I switched directions to Data Analytics, I kept Psychology as a minor because it’s always been a subject that I was interested in. Because psychology has some grounding in empiricism, it deals a lot with data and statistics, so the two actually pair quite well together.

By the same token, studying psychology, in some ways, can help you build interpersonal skills which are useful in a data analyst position in which you must collaborate with different people in your organization.

Congratulations to Xavier on his scholarship! For more information on the SMART Program or to learn how to apply, visit www.smartscholarship.org. The application is open annually from August through December.


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