Syracuse University School of Information Studies is proud to announce alumna Nicole Osborne as a 2021 Generation Orange Award recipient. This award recognizes Generation Orange alumni who have impacted campus and their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy on behalf of Syracuse University. 

Osborne grew up in the DC area and came to Syracuse as an undergraduate in 2011. She originally planned on attending Newhouse to pursue broadcast journalism but ended up at Maxwell studying policy studies with a concentration in education, health, and human services. 

As an undergraduate, Osborne was an involved student. She worked as an RA and held several internships. She even completed independent research on socio-economic policy framework conducted at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Osborne graduated from Maxwell in 2014 with a bachelor’s in Public Policy Analysis. She worked with a few companies right after college as a research assistant before starting with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. 

Around 2016 while working for KIPP in the district office, Osborne started to consider graduate school. She’d reached a point in her career where she felt technical skills related to her work would help advance her career. At the time, she was implementing software to help teachers with online testing. 

“There are regional benchmarks and regional tests that we would have to administer, and that’s how we would see if students were on track to pass the state exam at the end of the year,” explains Osborne. “I was responsible for working with the teachers who were leading and writing the benchmarks and developing the assessments, but they were on paper and graded by hand or on traditional scantrons. While working at KIPP, we started implementing an online assessment tool. It also had functionality like a scantron, but you could use your phone or a webcam to scan the test results. Then the bubble sheet would populate live results on the computer. As answers were uploaded, a dashboard populated so you could instantly see which standards students were mastering or struggling with. That’s when the pieces started clicking, like, ‘Oh, there are ways to use technology within education that I may not have considered before.”

Osborne considered Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies for her graduate degree and felt a good balance of technical skills and business management would apply to her career. “I was on campus meeting with folks from the iSchool who were willing to talk to me about the graduate programs, and it was a no-brainer. Why not come back to Syracuse?” says Osborne. 

In 2018, Osborne attended the iSchool part-time while maintaining a full-time career. Much like her time at Maxwell, Osborne did what she could to stay involved with the Syracuse community. Osborne led a section of PST 410: Practicum in Public Policy, where she guided a team of five students to assess the Maxwell School Community Partnership Program’s client management and retention. After surveying past clients, conducting market research, and evaluating the program’s Salesforce database, the team proposed recommendations to ensure student skills match the needs of community partners and future employers.

Osborne also earned a position with Syracuse University as a Research Analyst, where she focused on discovering, analyzing, and recommending philanthropic opportunities for Syracuse. She later was promoted to Data Analyst, where she worked directly with alumni data to support the direct response and leadership annual giving teams to make data-driven decisions. 

“I get a lot of joy from gathering people and creating opportunities for others to connect or facilitate interactions,” says Osborne. “This can apply to work, but as an alum, I always get super excited when I see someone that’s engaged for the first time. Sometimes I’ll share things on LinkedIn, and folks will be like, ‘Oh, I’ve always wondered how I could get engaged as an alum. What do I do?’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s talk. Let’s set up a time.’ I always get a lot of joy from those conversations when folks start realizing you don’t have to have everything all together to give back or help students.” 

Osborne graduated from the iSchool with her Master’s in Information Management in 2020. She now works as an associate for the Education Strategy Group (ESG). This consulting firm works with K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems to increase educational attainment and advance equity. Osborne’s role is to provide data-driven technical assistance across all sectors to help leaders align career pathways with the labor market demands. One of the core services Osborne provides is working with states or regions to identify credentials of value that are associated with in-demand and high-wage occupations using local labor market information and input from the employer community.

“I worked for a small firm when I was hired. I think there were 12 of us full-time and now there are almost 30 people. So we’re small but growing and are continually developing the business operations and systems that businesses need to thrive,” shares Osborne. “This year, I’ve been one of three people in my firm who’s spearheaded a Salesforce implementation. We went from having very little centralized customer data available to all staff members and no database to having a live Salesforce environment. I couldn’t have been a part of this lift without my training from the iSchool.”

In addition to her work at ESG, Osborne is also on the board of three organizations. She is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Inkulueko, a member of the Board of Directors for Hiscock Legal Aid Society, and Onondaga Community College Foundation. Osborne’s ambition in volunteerism and career success is primarily due to her drive and motivation, but she also credits her time at Syracuse, both at Maxwell and the iSchool. “One of the biggest things to impact my education and my career is Syracuse’s interdisciplinary approach to education,” says Osborne. “I like this idea that you don’t just have to be a policy person or a data analyst. You can, and you should, have a combination of content and technical skills to apply in whatever you’re doing. I think my undergraduate experience definitely helped shape my technical skills, and the iSchool refined them.”