Gies Alumnus Rises Above Competition In Data-Visualization Contest

Gies student and person of color, Devin Oliver, wearing University of Illinois jacket.At 6-foot-7, it’s not hard for Devin Oliver (BA ’19) to stand tall above his peers. But as a senior at Gies College of Business, he took that to a new level, taking first place in a campus-wide data visualization contest.

Oliver’s project, “Racial Demographics at UIUC over 50 years,” displays how University of Illinois students have racially identified over the last few decades in context with how racial diversity has evolved over the years at public universities in the United States.

Oliver, who double-majored in information systems/information technology and business process management, said winning the contest was “a good form of validation.”

“It just felt like I created something that someone else thought was cool and thought they could find useful,” he said.

The Bolingbrook-native took home $500 for winning the contest. It was hosted by Scholarly Commons and judged by a panel from across campus. Oliver called it some of his “best work,” and says it all stemmed from an independent study with computer science professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider.

“I was looking at the racial demographic information I found really interesting,” said Oliver. “Professor Fagen thought it would be a good idea if I tried it, so I decided to tackle it on my own. I came back to him two weeks later with this interactive visualization. It ended up turning out really nice.”

Oliver says he has always had an interest in data and numbers; that’s what led him to his major in information systems.

“I found working with data to be very interesting,” said Oliver, who minored in informatics. “I love figuring out how to incorporate data into different systems and creating visual representations that people can actually utilize.”

Oliver made the most of his time at Gies College of Business. He served as a resident advisor for the Business Living-Learning Community in Wassaja Hall. He was also a member of Phi Beta Lambda, a professional business organization that teaches professionalism, community, and philanthropy. Oliver interned twice as a system administrator at Rockwell Automation, a Milwaukee-based company that develops industrial automation and information products. He graduated in May 2019 and works as a consultant in Phoenix, Arizona.

“At Gies College of Business, you start out learning about accounting and finance and all these different areas of business,” said Oliver. “I have the appropriate background to do so many different things. The fact that there’s such a well-rounded education here has opened so many doors for me. It’s been amazing.”

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