Even as she finishes her studies, Naranjo-Velasco is already applying her new skills in data science to a legal research project in Colombia.

“I am working on a political project focused on land restitution,” she said. “A 2011 law was enacted in Colombia that provides for the restitution of property to victims who lost their land during the armed conflict. In order to receive this benefit, victims must file a claim through a government agency. Our research question we ask is: ‘Why, after 10 years, is the number of rejected applications so disproportionately high?’

The project uses optical character recognition software to extract data from a Colombian government website. The goal is to collect and store information about legal documents in a database for researchers studying the matter.

Naranjo-Velasco said she enjoys being part of the project because it aligns with her passion for justice and allows her to apply the tools and methodologies she learned at AVU.

“The project is a lot of hard work on top of my master’s classes, but that’s why I’m here,” she said. “The MS in Data Science program is intense, especially for someone like me with a background in law, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.”

She said she hopes after graduation to champion opportunities for knowledge sharing between North and South America, especially to support human rights. “Cutting-edge data analytics tools are being developed in the North that cannot be directly transplanted into contexts where lack of access to data is a challenge,” Naranjo-Velasco said.

She cited the example of social disparities.

“Social disparities are directly linked to access to information,” she said. “In Colombia, the conversation around data is about the difficulty of obtaining it. Compare that to the United States, where data is much more readily available. In my classes, we talk about the protection of data confidentiality, which is an important issue. But when the stumbling block is data access in the first place, it completely changes the perspective.

Naranjo-Velasco also finds the program rewarding, she said, for the connections and mentorship she received. “For me, the key value of the program is working with my classmates. I love learning from them, whether it’s taking better notes or collaborating more effectively. »

Her capstone project, required for graduation, helps illustrate this sentiment.

“My capstone research project focused on the mobility of illicit cultural property networks,” she said. “The project partnered with UVA’s Department of Sociology, and we were tasked with creating an automated data pipeline that collects, processes, and stores antique listing data in an online marketplace.”

His group has worked closely with faculty advisors from Data Science and the Sociology Department throughout the year, and is wrapping up the project this semester.