When Sam Edelstein was deciding where to go to college, he initially thought he’d want to study journalism. He enjoyed writing and reporting and had experience working on his high school newspaper. His father, a Syracuse alumnus, introduced Edelstein to his alma mater, and after some investigating, Edelstein felt the New House at Syracuse University might be the right fit for him.
However, like many first-year students, his interests changed once he got to college. Edelstein earned his bachelor’s in Economics and Policy Studies with a minor in Political Science from Maxwell. After earning his undergraduate degree, Edelstein spent two years at ICF International as a Research Assistant before moving to South Korea to teach English for a year.
Then in the summer of 2012, Edelstein got the opportunity to return to Syracuse as the Assistant Director at the Office of Alumni. Edelstein loved everything about Syracuse as a student and stayed involved with the university as an alumnus. Plus, his wife was expecting a child, and Edelstein felt it was an excellent time for a change. So, he accepted the position and made a move to Syracuse.
Edelstein’s primary function with the Office of Alumni was discovering ways to engage alumni. He did everything from helping plan events to using data to understand the characteristics of Syracuse alumni and what the school could do to improve engagement. Much of Edelstein’s work up to this point, both in his role at Syracuse and in previous roles, involved using data to inform decisions. Edelstein enjoyed the data and analytical part of his work but knew there was more to learn if he wished to continue in this career path. So, less than a year into his role with the Office of Alumni Relations, Edelstein enrolled in the iSchool to pursue a master’s in Information Management and Technology and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Data Science.
“I always knew I liked working with data,” says Edelstein. “With the projects I did as part of the Policy Studies program, we used Excel and other data programs to analyze survey data. I knew that I liked doing that, but I also had a sense that I needed to develop additional skills if I wanted to get deeper into that kind of work.”
With new information management and data science skills, Edelstein left Syracuse as a student and employee to pursue a job at the mayor’s office. This opportunity allowed him to apply his love for political science with his newfound skills in data science. He worked in an analytics role in the Department of Innovation. His projects involved building data models to apply maintenance to local streets better, developing a road closure notification map so citizens could see upcoming road closures, and analyzing personnel usage data to recommend optimal staffing levels for different city departments.
Edelstein was growing passionate about his new role and enjoyed seeing his education and interests come together. “When I was an undergrad, the kind of job I ended up doing for the city didn’t exist,” shares Edelstein. “There were people who were analysts for a city, but they’re working on how to strategically use data in a municipal government. I’d always been passionate about the university and loved the city as well. So, I felt it was a great opportunity to have a part in the management of how a city works and trying to develop the strategy around how the city could better use data to inform decisions.”
As much as Edelstein enjoyed his work, he also enjoyed talking about it. So when another opportunity came along for a job teaching at Syracuse, Edelstein took it. “It seemed like a fun opportunity to teach some of the things I was doing,” says Edelstein. “I always felt like the best way to learn something is to teach it. I was also trying to get more buy-in from people within the city government, so it was helpful to contextualize things and teach. It was also a fun extracurricular thing to get to engage with a lot of smart, talented students.”
Edelstein continued his role at the mayor’s office until 2020 when he took a senior consultant role with BlueGranite. Edelstein had always been passionate about helping organizations use data and technology in productive ways, and he felt consulting was the direction he wanted to go. “It was a hard decision. I loved my job with the city, but I felt like I’d done a lot of the things that I set out to do,” says Edelstein. “There always would have been more things to do, but it felt like a good time to try something else and allow somebody else to take things and run with it. My hope was that I would get a team in place to continue the work after I left and set up some systems so that the work could continue, and I think I did that. The team continues, and it seems like it will live on for a long time.”
Edelstein’s role as a consultant with BlueGranite involves implementing data platforms, whether helping to build out a data warehouse or helping with business intelligence tools. It’s a more technical role than what Edelstein held at the mayor’s office, but it’s given him perspective on how other companies use and analyze data to solve problems. “I spent a good amount of time building something up internally within an organization, and I wanted to see how other organizations have approached things and where their challenges come in. And so consulting was a good opportunity to do that because I get to work with a lot of different clients, both municipal and government, and also nongovernmental.”
Through each role Edelstein held, he sees a connection to Syracuse. Through the education he received and the relationships he built, and even the students he continues to teach.
“Some of the classes from the policy studies degree directly transmitted to getting a job because I was able to show projects I’d worked on, but also the skills I built up were really helpful,” says Edelstein. “I’ve been able to maintain relationships with alumni and faculty at the university. And whether they’ve directly led to additional roles or have been there supporting me, it’s been really important. And then the degree at the iSchool gave me a lot of the technical skill sets I needed to do more of the work that I did. And that continued connection with the school led to broader partnerships between the city and the university to leverage student work to help the city. We’ve had dozens of interns and students working with the city. Those kinds of partnerships were all really important for building the capability for the city.”