When you think about places at U-M that attract students from all over campus who might not otherwise overlap, you might think of the Diag, the cafeteria in MoJo, or the Big House. But alumnus Uriah Israel (Ph.D. ’20) says you should probably consider classrooms too.

“Astronomy 106, which is a course about aliens, and Dance 100 connect more people who wouldn’t normally take a class together more often than any other courses on campus. A liberal arts education is supposed to expose students to new ideas and new people,” he says. “We wanted to see which courses facilitate that experience.”

For his doctorate in applied physics and a graduate certificate from the Center for the Study of Complex Systems, Israel used big data techniques to analyze enrollment data to develop different ways to measure a student’s educational experience. “We looked at every course that every student took for the past 15 years. It’s a lot of data,” Israel says. “We viewed the data as one large network, or graph, and studied it all using network analysis.”

You may read more in the LSA article by Anna Megdell.