Honors Grad Channels Multiple Academic Passions into a Dream Job


The past five years have been extremely busy for Allyson Lesher. And she wouldn’t change a single minute of it.

Since matriculating at the College, Allyson’s time has been occupied by, among other things, membership in the Honors College’s E-LLC (Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community), leadership positions with the crew team and Charleston Excursion, a digitalization internship with Bosch, plus majors in mathematics and data science with a concentration in business analytics. After graduating from the Honors College in 2020, she spent the past year obtaining a master’s degree in Mathematical Sciences as part of the College’s 4+1 program.

So what’s next for Allyson?

She recently accepted a job with the Naval Information Warfare Center, where she’ll work as a data scientist for the Department of the Navy. As a member of the Center’s data science/analytics team, she’ll be working on projects that employ a variety of high-level computer science languages. The job is a dream opportunity, in that it actively combines her academic passions: math, data science, and business analytics.

“My manager was very impressed with the combination of skills that I had,” Lesher said. “which made the struggle of data science, math, Honors, (and the) 4+1 graduate program worth it.”

We asked Allyson a few questions about how all the work she put in during her time at CofC has paid off:

What excites you most about your post-grad plans? 

I wanted to find a job that would use all parts of my education. While data science and math are very similar, most jobs seemed to focus only on data science or math. I’m excited that at NIWC I can use my knowledge of statistics, coding, and data visualization.

How did the Honors College help prepare you for your next step? 

The Honors College pushed me out of my comfort zone more than I would have myself. The research on topic modeling I did for my Honors Immersed and Bachlor’s Essay requirements taught me how to compile a data-oriented project without textbook guidelines and present that information efficiently and effectively using data visualization. Professor Affonso always encouraged the members in the E-LLC to pursue leadership positions. I never felt I was qualified to be in those positions but I later realized I probably was, so I appreciated the push to strive for more. 

What’s something you did during college that you never would have imagined yourself doing? 

Academically, I graduated from the Honors College with majors in data science and math while starting my graduate degree my senior year—all while having an internship, coaching competitive gymnastics, and competing with CofC’s club crew team. I was busy, but I loved everything I did. While accomplishing some of this would not be surprising to past-me, I’m not sure l ever imagined I could do it all. Personally, I was the president of the crew team and executive director of Cougar Excursion. I was incredibly shy in middle and high school. If you told past-me I’d be talking regularly to large groups of people—confidently too!—there would be no way I’d believe you. 

If you could somehow bottle up one feature of life at CofC and bring it with you to your next step, what would it be? 

Charleston Crew. Rowing required morning practice at 5:45, ERG testing that made me feel like I might pass out, and blisters on blisters all over my hands. However, rowing gave me some of my best friends, strength and power I didn’t know I had, calm mornings on the Ashley River (often with dolphins!), mental strength to push through tough races (and tough days), the most beautiful sunrises, the ability to get up in the morning, despite not liking mornings, and so many moments of joy. 

If you could travel back in time and talk with your freshmen self, what advice would you offer about the college experience? 

Do what makes you happy, not what other people think you should do. I may have had to sacrifice some sleep and socialization because I was always so busy, but I loved everything I was involved in. Friends and advisors would sometimes suggest giving something up—and their suggestion often came from a place of caring—but I always hated hearing that advice. Everything I did in my life brought me joy and I’m glad I never did give anything up because someone else thought my life would be better with less in it.

Our conversation with Allyson Lesher is part of an on-going series called WHAT’S NEXT, where we highlight just a few of the extraordinary next steps for graduating Honors students. You can check out additional entries on our 10 Green Way blog.

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