Alumni Story: Helen Hemminger ’81

I picked MSS because I liked to see how math could be applied to social science questions. After Dartmouth, I went on to a 20+ year career in managing human services. I always had more than a passing interest in the data. When I was director of a homeless shelter, I wondered, is it a better outcome if the people who are homeless leave for housing within a month or is it better if they stay 3 months but the return to the shelter rate is lower?

In 2005, I was self-employed grant writing and helping shelters develop affordable housing. In that context, I learned how to do housing market analyses which is certainly an application of math to social science. From working on housing initiatives, I was introduced to GIS — Geographic Information Systems or computer mapping. I was so fascinated I went back to school one course at a time at the undergraduate level at the University of Southern Maine. I took 5 classes for a certificate in Applied Geographic Information Systems. That new skill and my back ground in Math Social Sciences, allowed me to start a new career focused on data analysis in the world of health systems. Health analytics and improving health outcomes are very popular right now. So, though it took a long time to apply my degree, I would say that my major turned out to be very relevant after all. (10/2014)