Data Science Meets Veteran Student Success

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Business in Charlotte is booming – and it’s just where UNC Charlotte student Ray Xie wants to be. Since 2012, home closings in Charlotte have nearly tripled. Since 2014, the number of people employed here has risen by over 50,000. June 2016 alone brought in $1.6 billion in retail sales for the area.

Xie is enrolled in the Master’s in Data Science and Business Analytics (DSBA) program, part of UNC Charlotte’s larger Data Science Initiative. The DSBA program is among the first of its kind in the region, and it gives students the opportunity to study the intersection of business, computer and information sciences, statistics, and operations research. Graduates of this interdisciplinary program can be found working in fast-growing data-intensive fields such as financial services, risk management, energy, retail and health analytics.

Ray Xie works in a Center City classroom.
DSBA graduate student Ray Xie working in a Center City campus classroom.

How did Xie arrive here? His journey to Charlotte began long before his enrollment in the DSBA program. At 18, he moved from China to Seattle, where he studied at the University of Washington. An important part of his attraction to the United States was his intense desire to serve our country, so he quickly joined the Army Reserves and continues to serve today.

Upon arrival, he had to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture, all while working toward his U.S. citizenship. After earning his bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Washington, Xie worked in finance for a time, but after ten years in Seattle, he decided it was time for a change. He moved to Charlotte in 2016 when a friend connected him to the DSBA program.

Today Xie continues to serve in the Army Reserves as a commissioned officer. He says he sees immense respect for the military in the United States, and from an early age he was curious what it would be like.  “For me, the Army was a place to fulfill the American Dream,” he says.

 Indeed, one could say he’s living the American Dream. In the military, he’s learned the value of hard work, he’s gained resilience, and he’s had the opportunity to be a pioneer in his field. The DSBA program encourages pathfinders like Xie because, as he says, “Data is the future.”

Joshua Hertel, director of Xie’s program, agrees: “Given (Xie’s) background in military intelligence, we feel there’s a real opportunity for him not only personally, but also to help the program expand.”

Ray Xie stakes his claim in uptown Charlotte.

What’s next for Ray Xie? He has no doubt that he wants to stay in Charlotte. He loves all the city has to offer even beyond the financial aspect - the food, the hospitality, and, after ten years in the Pacific Northwest, the weather is a welcome reprieve. These factors create the ideal climate for Xie to succeed in the financial arena. He also looks forward to continuing to serve our country. Currently, he drills in Lenoir and is responsible for training with Battalion S2, a group focused on gathering, interpreting, and analyzing intelligence.

The DSBA program prepares its students for a variety of careers, but Xie is most interested in pursuing a career as a business analyst or data scientist. His philosophy, which has carried him well, is to put knowledge into action regardless of circumstances. It’s something he learned in the military. In the military, as in life, he says, one must follow four words: “Plan well and execute.”

Contributed by Melody Vaughn
Graduate School Communications