Data science continues to be one of the fastest growing industries in the country and one of the most sought-after degrees. The College of Charleston recognized the need and established the first undergraduate data science program in the country. Today, students in the program are consistently graduating with full-time job offers from companies like American Express and Boeing.

Ben Gonzalez, a senior Honors student majoring in data science with a concentration in business analytics and a minor in computer science, is one of those students.

“Companies thrive on innovation, and Ben Gonzalez, an inventive student leader, consistently inspires us with visionary ideas for the future of finance (FinTech) in the era of AI. This is evident in the thesis for his yearlong interdisciplinary bachelor’s essay at the Honors College,” says Lancie Affonso ’96 (M.S. ’08), instructor in the Department of Computer Science and the School of Business, Honors College Faculty Fellow and director of the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community. “I’m confident that Ben will continue to merge his technical expertise in machine learning and AI, his intrapreneurial mindset and his interdisciplinary liberal arts education to both disrupt and propel the growth of the FinTech market.”

Gonzalez was offered a full-time position at American Express after working as a strategy and analytics intern on their credit risk team last summer. He credits Affonso for giving him a push to join the School of Business Investment Program.

“When I joined the investment program, I met Andre Limon ’22, who works at American Express and who mentored me throughout the interview process. I was also mentored by Jody Bell ’23 and Anthony Spinella ’23, former co-directors of the investment program, who helped me develop leadership skills to step into my current role as managing director,” says Gonzalez. “The people in the program really changed the course of my college career. It’s a student-run investment program with about 20 undergrads who are learning real-world skills. About 90% of the students have job placements when they graduate.

“The interpersonal and technical skills that I developed in the investment program helped me succeed in my internship at American Express,” Gonzalez continues. “I am excited to enter the financial services industry and want to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter holder with the goal of being a leader in the financial services industry.”

Gonzalez’ dreams of being a leader in financial services can be traced back to his early years at the College when he enrolled in Data Science 101. Something just clicked.

“The thing I love about data science is that it doesn’t stand alone,” he says. “It’s solving problems using computer science, math and algorithmic thinking. I’ve had the opportunity to develop interdisciplinary data science skills as a student in the Honors College that include competing in the UofSC Big Data Health Science Case competition. Two other Honors students and I were able to compete against undergraduate and graduate students from across the country, and were the only undergraduate team to place as finalists.”

Gonzalez wants to inspire students to follow a similar path and take advantage of the vast resources offered at the College to propel students into careers in financial services and FinTech.

All it takes is a little push.