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Kate Shirley Akers: Tracking Strategies and Statistics

“I feel so fortunate to be employed doing exactly what I want to do, where I want to do it!”

When Kate Shirley Akers ‘07 visited the Transylvania campus as a high school student, the personalized attention she received from her tour guide, overnight host, and the Transylvania faculty and staff blew her away. Her decision to attend Transylvania was made even easier by the fact that her parents, loyal graduates of other universities, also fell in love with Transylvania.

Akers quickly saw the upside of her decision. The availability of the faculty and the cooperative spirit among the faculty and students really impressed her. “I remember the patient, individualized instruction of the faculty I worked with and continue to work with even now. Their passion not only for their field, but for their students, is infectious. 

“Transylvania offers a challenging, rigorous curriculum that will prepare you for any career you wish to pursue, while also providing a supportive, encouraging environment.”

As a math major, Akers could have chosen any number of lucrative careers or fields of postgraduate study, but she decided to pursue her doctorate in higher education at the University of Kentucky.

How did her path take this unexpected turn? During her senior year at Transylvania, Akers had an internship in the admissions office with Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions Brad Goan, where she was able to blend her love for math and statistics with her passion for higher education.

After completing her Ph.D., Akers had her sights set on “a faculty career somewhere on the east coast.” However, her ties to Kentucky led her to apply for a position as research analyst in the Office of the Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) in Frankfort. She now holds that position, which also includes work with the Strategic Data Project, an initiative of the Center for Educational Policy Research at Harvard University. Keeping one foot in academe, she finds time to fulfill duties as an adjunct professor in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky.

Her position with KDE allows her to travel and collaborate with colleagues in educational research throughout the country. ”I still have freedom in my job, and have the benefit of meeting many fantastic, passionate people, and I feel that the work I am doing is really making a difference in the Kentucky K-12 education.”

Akers’ liberal arts education helps her move freely from number cruncher to educational policy analyst. “Although my first degree was in math, I now spend a lot of time communicating with others who are not familiar with data analysis and research. Studying liberal arts taught me the flexibility that enables me to have confidence in my work.

“Some days you reflect on your life and think, ’I wonder what could have been?’ I will never feel that way about choosing Transylvania. It’s where I met my husband, my mentors, and my very best friends.”

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