Catching up with Rebecca Dunn Piatt ’16 Whether it was inside the classroom or out and about on campus, Rebecca Dunn Piatt '16 looks back on her time at W&L fondly.
What was your major at W&L, and how does it apply to your career now?
I majored in Sociology & Anthropology, and minored in Poverty and Human Capability Studies. The classes I took at W&L prepared me for my job as a research analyst in children, youth, and family policy.
What was your first job after graduation?
For the year following graduation, I lived in a rural village in western Nepal working for the Oda Foundation — a community-based health and education nonprofit started by a fellow W&L alum. At the Oda Foundation, I carried out various research projects, wrote grants, tried (and oftentimes failed) to speak Nepali, played with kids for hours on end, and did a lot of hiking.
How did W&L prepare you for your career?
Classes like research methods, statistics and POV 101 built the groundwork for carrying out research tasks and understanding the impacts of policy decisions in my current job. Working closely with Professor Eastwood on my senior honors thesis also prepared me for working on long and complicated projects with project leaders at Mathematica.
What are some of your major or memorable career milestones?
One of my major recent milestones was completing my master’s degree from UChicago — during the pandemic and while working a full-time job. I also just hit my five-year anniversary at Mathematica! So far, I’ve worked at three different locations — from our D.C. and Chicago offices and now remotely in Charlottesville, Virginia. I appreciate how Mathematica has given me the flexibility to move and work from different locations across the U.S.
Who or what has most inspired you along the way? (Staff, faculty, classmates, internships, alumni, etc.)
Professor Beckley, former head of the Shepherd Program, continues to be very influential in my life — and even attended our wedding in Chicago last year!
What do you miss most about your time at W&L?
I miss Thursday night soccer practice on the turf field. Running on the treadmill in the gym now just isn’t the same!
What was the one class you most enjoyed outside of your major, and why?
I took a spring term class on history and culture in Nepal, which ended up being relocated from Kathmandu to Lexington due to the earthquake in April 2015. Although not as originally planned, the class gave me valuable background on the country and gave me more motivation to live in Nepal for the year after graduation.
What is the one class or professor you wish you could return to campus and take a class with now?
Literally any class taught by Professor Eastwood. He was my major and senior honors thesis advisor and inspired me to pursue a career path in sociology and public policy research. I’d love to take one of his current classes on data science.
What is one thing on your W&L bucket list that you would still like to accomplish?
Honestly, the ongoing joke with our friends is that Austin and I cannot sit still. Needless to say, we adventured a lot in Lexington during and after college — including hiking House Mountain, floating the Maury, getting drinks at Taps, and much more. This fall, I’d like to watch a soccer game from Watt Field and see how many fans watch from third year housing. All of us alumni are jealous of the new built-in fan base!
Tell a favorite memory in five sentences or less.
I met my husband, Austin Piatt ’17, at a basketball soccer mixer. I was dressed up like a nerd since my sorority had a “Mathletes vs. Athletes” mixer earlier that night. Much to our chagrin, our officiant recounted the story years later at our wedding, with four soccer players and four basketball players standing by our side.
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