Abayomi Israel, Research Assistant Lead
Research Assistant Lead
Resource Center for Minority Data
How long have you been at ICPSR, and what different positions have you held here (if any)? Where were you before coming here, and what were some of the factors that led you to come to ICPSR?
My time at ICPSR has been filled with a number of growth opportunities, a wide range of serendipitous occurrences, and various actors who supported me along the way. My unique experience here is quite different from the conventional career path that one may embark on after graduating from college. In fact, I would actually say "non-traditional" is a great way to describe it in a nutshell. I grew up in the Caribbean, did my undergraduate education in Atlanta, Georgia, spent some time in Manhattan working as an investment banker and now, I'm at Michigan finishing my graduate degree while working full time for ICPSR. I'm living the dream every day.
I was hired as a full time employee in 2007, but my career here technically began in 2005 when I was selected as the first summer intern in what was then a pilot program. After completing three-quarters of the degree requirements as a sophomore, I was nominated by the chair of the economics department at Morehouse College, Dr. John Handy (then member of ICPSR council), to come to ICPSR. I remember completing my final examination on May 20th and I was in Ann Arbor on the 22nd! With special thanks to Rita Bantom (ICPSR's human resources director) and David Thomas (project manager for the Resource Center for Minority Data), the internship program opened my eyes to the world of graduate work, research opportunities and the skills of data management and processing. Frankly, my time spent in the corporate arena only strengthened my love of this place. It also doesn't hurt that Ann Arbor is one of the most beautiful places to be during the summer.
What are your current research interests/job duties?
As I mentioned, I started here as a summer intern, returned in 2007 as a temporary employee with the MDRC, led by Felicia LeClere, and took a full-time position as a Research Technician Senior in 2008. In 2010, I was promoted to a Research Technician Lead with the RCMD (led by John Garcia). In addition to those roles, I am currently serving my fourth year as an Intern Mentor and my third year as the Summer Internship Program Manager. Yes, the same program that first introduced me to ICPSR! In regards to my current job duties, I guess it just depends on the period. Throughout the year, I spend most of my time manipulating and cleaning both large- and small-scale datasets, creating appropriate documentation for dissemination and doing disclosure risk review for more sensitive studies. On top of processing, I have led interviews with a number of Principal Investigators so that users can get some valuable insight into their experience as a researcher. I have also worked with the programming staff to create processing tools and scripts that would help other processors with large-scale, multi-part, multi-year studies. In addition to the day-to-day activities, every few months I travel to various colleges, universities, conferences and career fairs to give presentations on ICPSR, quantitative literacy, and research on under-represented population using the Resource Center for Minority Populations. During many of these trips, I work with human resource staff from both ICPSR and ISR to recruit for the numerous summer internships and career opportunities. During the winter to the summer period, my role as Program Manager has its own list of responsibilities. I worked with CNS and the Web team to create the internship website, coordinated and chaired the search and interview committees, and worked with the event coordinator, Kathryn Frania, to implement new activities for the interns.
How has ICPSR influenced your career?
ICPSR has been a place where I discovered my true passion. While working full time, I am also completing the Master's Program in Applied Economics at the University of Michigan. Straight out of college, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and my time at ICPSR has allowed me to network with leaders in the field, narrow down my interests, and push myself in ways that would not be possible outside of the walls of the Perry Building. ICPSR has supported me not only financially, but has given me some of the skills that I have used in the classroom and will use for years to come. It has also granted me the flexibility to take classes without problem. In addition to that, the Laurie Staples Fund has given me that extra support that I cannot even begin to quantify. Even the Summer Program courses offered here are being put to use when I mentor some students back home in Trinidad. My career is currently evolving as I'm expecting to go more into consulting, but no matter the direction I decide to eventually take it, I know that ICPSR will continue to play an important role in my decision.
What are some of your best memories of your time at ICPSR?
When I think of my favorite memories, it usually boils down to the time spent with my fellow co-workers. They are more than just my colleagues; they are my friends, my family away from home, my workout buddies, and my team. I remember the ISR 60th anniversary celebration when we all got up and danced in front of everyone with James Jackson — hilarious! We are a pretty close-knit team. In fact, we all are planning to attend one of the team member's wedding in Chicago during the Labor Day weekend. Another one of my fondest memories is the first year we introduced the speed networking event for the interns. We got so much support from all the various departments throughout ICPSR and it was a great feeling to know that all our hard work paid off. There are way too many of these memories to mention! Our trips to Atlanta, Michigan State diversity career fairs, exploring San Francisco with my supervisor and director, decorating our co-workers office for his birthday, meeting the new interns for the first time — All really amazing memories!