A Buggy Connection
Samuel Swift (DC'04, TPR'09,'12)
Samuel Swift (DC'04, TPR'09,'12) cemented his lifelong connection to Carnegie Mellon University when he joined the Fringe buggy team.
As a founder of the CMU Buggy Alumni Association, Swift has enabled countless like-minded alumni to sustain that same invaluable tie.
Swift spent three years as head mechanic for his buggy team. Academically, enrolling in the first Decision Science cohort proved a perfect fit for his intellectual interests.
"Social and Decision Sciences is about asking how to measure people's behavior," said the Richmond, Va., native. "Economic theory gives you a good ruler, psychology gives you great insights and together, you can think about any problem in the human world."
After graduation, Swift spent two years honing his technical skills as a software consultant for startup CM3 (now Fino Consulting) — founded by three alumni he'd known from buggy.
Swift then returned to CMU to earn his Ph.D. in organizational behavior, under Don Moore, the same professor who had advised his undergraduate research. Swift's work on graduate admissions and hiring decisions garnered attention in media from the Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Times.
Throughout, Swift continued to attend weekend buggy practice and in 2008, posted a website featuring buggy photos.
"Conversation just blew up," said the 2014 Alumni Service Award Winner. "The comment section became a focal point for alumni from all different organizations and eras that had never had a place to gather and talk. We said, 'This is really valuable. This needs to be something more.'"
Swift created cmubuggy.org, a website that now includes a forum, history, participant data and more. The burgeoning alumni organization has undertaken initiatives that include a timing system upgrade, new course Jumbotrons and race day postings for far-flung alumni.
His CMU ties deepened in 2010, when Swift married Sarah Schipul (CMU'04, DC'12), the alumna he'd met the beginning of freshman year. After earning his Ph.D., he accepted a post-doctoral position contributing to the Good Judgment Project, a multi-year study of crowd-sourced forecasts of geopolitical events for the U.S. intelligence community.
Swift recently joined New York finance startup Betterment as a data scientist, working to help the company reach its goal of 'closing the gap between good intentions and realized behavior.'
He said he's grateful to CMU for giving him an early edge.
"CMU was ahead of the curve in terms of quantitative social science," Swift said. "Understanding behavior through data is now very fashionable, but CMU started training me in 2000. I had a decade to gain experience and a deeper understanding of what it means to ask those questions. Now that I'm in that industry, I'm very well prepared."
And while he can't attend buggy practice anymore, he's happy to keep the website and organization thriving.
"Buggy is a part of the CMU experience that is exceptionally unique," Swift said. "The tie is really strong."