Jennifer Lewis Priestley
Professor of applied statistics and data science reflects on her Kennesaw State career
Jennifer Lewis Priestley is proud to be a part of Kennesaw State University and says each day offers a positive experience for her.
“There’s something exciting that happens at KSU every day,” she said. “The University is on such an immense upswing and it makes for an incredibly motivating, energizing environment to work in.”
Priestley’s Kennesaw State experience began in 2004 after spending 11 years working in private industry for Visa International, MasterCard International, Andersen Consulting and AT&T Universal Card Services. In 1999, she left her job with Visa in London and returned to Atlanta where she earned her Ph.D. in decision sciences from Georgia State University. Priestley launched her career at KSU in January 2004, and she currently serves as a professor of applied statistics and data science and the director of the Center for Statistics and Analytical Services (CSAS).
What gives Priestley the most satisfaction at Kennesaw is the impact she has on her students and her part in transforming their lives. “Many students I interact with are often the first person in their family to attend college and very motivated to succeed and learn the material I’m teaching them. They want to build a strong academic foundation that will carry them throughout their lives, and I’m humbled that I am able to give them the tools they need to compete in the job market.”
Priestley’s experience working in private industry and current partnerships with corporations throughout Georgia allow her to teach her students both theory and practical skills – essential training that makes her students highly sought after by job recruiters.
Brian Stone, chief risk officer at Atlanticus, a financial holding company, is among the industry leaders who know how well Priestley’s students are trained. “Her students hit the ground running on day one, and we don’t have to spend nearly as much time or money training them as we do with graduates of other schools. Kennesaw State students are focused a little bit less on theory and more on practical application, which is what my company is looking for.”
In addition to teaching, one of the high points in Priestley’s academic year is the annual SAS (Statistical Analysis System) Day held in the spring. This event allows applied analysis students a chance to highlight their SAS research and network with employers in attendance. It’s often called a “reverse job fair” because students well versed in SAS software are in high demand and difficult for companies to recruit. Her students have a 100 percent job placement rate upon graduation.
Another high point for Priestley is the exposure she has had with her colleagues at Kennesaw State. “I’ve been humbled and honored to work with highly talented faculty members who are passionate about teaching, and I’ve learned a lot from them.” Priestley says she has grown as an educator by adopting some of the communication strategies they use when interacting with students.
“One of the hardest things I’ve learned over the years is how difficult it is to be a good teacher. I still have a lot to learn, and I strive each day to become a better educator.”
-by Katherine Dorsett Bennett
-photo by David Caselli