Cassondra Hulshizer loves a challenge. As a Data Manager with Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, she collects and manages cytogenetic data for tracking leukemia patient treatment results as part of a project with the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group headquartered in Boston, MA.
“My work in oncology is my way of helping to make a difference by contributing to something important,” declares Cassondra.
The team’s objective is to work with other ECOG-Acrin committees to seek out correlations between new cancer treatments and patient outcomes, and the final data is published in medical journals to help oncologists refine treatment protocols in the field. Hulshizer enjoys data analytics because it combines science, math, computers, and languages, “all the things I love most”.
Hulshizer has worked at Mayo Clinic for twenty-seven years, starting as a toxicology laboratory technologist, then as a technologist in the fertility laboratory before moving into oncology data management.
Cassondra is no stranger to hard work. She graduated from UNH with a Data Science Graduate Certificate in May 2019, on the same day that the second of her four children graduated from college with his bachelor’s degree. Her plan was to position herself for opportunities as a Data Analyst or Statistical Programmer Analyst in the health care field.
As an undergraduate at Luther College where she met her husband, Cassondra earned a degree in biology with a minor in math, but she also took French classes, which led to a semester in Nantes, France, and ultimately a second minor. Although enthusiastic about her time spent in Europe, she is quick to point out that computer programming is its own unique language study.
Living in a rural area without easy access to a college campus and no local opportunities for graduate-level data science courses, online learning was a welcome solution for Cassondra. The UNH curriculum offered a full range of subject areas and the asynchronous classes allowed flexibility to balance her study schedule with work and family life.
A self-starter by nature, Hulshizer logged in a week before the first day of class, using the published syllabus to get a head start on the first two weeks of her course work. Staying well ahead of the class schedule gave her a “stress-free” window of time in the event of illness or internet outage and allowed ample time to absorb the course materials.
Cassondra credits the UNH faculty with her positive online learning experience, describing their “outstanding” responsiveness to questions, flexibility in meeting schedules, and customized course work. “They really exceeded my expectations.”
In counterbalance to her busy life, Hulshizer enjoys a multitude of art projects that include painting, jewelry making, and furniture refinishing. And, unsurprisingly, she loves to work on puzzles of all kinds.
Whether tackling a family issue, a work requirement, an educational assignment or a craft project, each one is a puzzle to solve as she poses the same question: “What results do I want to achieve and how do I get there?”
Asked to name her favorite color, she responds, “It depends on what it’s intended for,” an excellent answer for someone who individualizes her approach to every puzzle.
It is this combination of pragmatic thinking and an undaunted spirit that has carried Cassondra through life’s challenges and opportunities to build a full family life and a satisfying career.