Matt Brems ’13

“More professors at Franklin College had an impact on my life than professors who did not have an impact. They helped me develop as a person and prepare for my career.”

Matt Brems ’13 understands the value of a liberal arts foundation. Each day, the graduate uses the critical thinking skills he learned at Franklin to help political candidates make strategic decisions.

The Washington, D.C.-based data scientist analyzes intelligence so his firm can direct political campaigns with quantitative knowledge rather than with intuition and “gut feelings.” Utilizing statistical methods, he manages field experiments, builds models, designs surveys and analyzes the data in order to better understand how to target voters – often all within the same day. Brems says of his firm’s mission, “We learn how voters feel so that candidates can understand what issues are important to voters, where candidates should spend their time, and what voters expect of elected officials so that they can be both elected to office and well-equipped to represent the voters once reaching that office.”

Brems’ background is well suited for understanding the political complexities of a civil society. At Franklin, Brems quadruple-majored in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, quantitative analysis, and economics with a minor in political science. Although he had arrived as a freshman with the thought of becoming a high school math teacher, his Franklin professors helped him realize a different dream.

“The beauty of the Franklin liberal arts education is that you can learn and explore. Professor of economics Hisaya Kitaoka, Ph.D., pushed me to take more economics classes until I declared economics as a major, and by senior year I realized I had taken enough political science courses to achieve a minor just because I had been taking classes that sounded interesting.”

Of his professors, Brems acknowledges he had many instrumental in his development. “More professors at Franklin College had an impact on my life than professors who did not have an impact,” he said. He cites faculty for demanding much more of him, resulting in achieving more than he thought possible.

“Learning how to work harder, work smarter, and teach myself how to really, truly, learn was integral to my graduate school experience.” Brems says Franklin professors pushing him to take the challenging courses were vital to his success in graduate school at Ohio State, where he earned a Master’s degree in statistics. “I am thankful for my time at Franklin which was interactive and stimulating, thoroughly preparing me for grad school.”

“Professor of political science Randall Smith, Ph.D., was always urging me to research and think in new ways. He taught me to be active in the world.” Brems says he maintains friendships with Franklin professors despite his busy career that places him as an active participant in the world. Working in Washington gives him access to a thriving environment of political and social change.

“Throughout my courses at Franklin, I learned that it is easy for people beyond the liberal arts environment to jump to quick conclusions or make judgments after listening to one side of an issue. Given the background that the liberal arts provides, I constantly ask, ‘What is true? What are the weaknesses in these arguments? What is not being said?’” Brems urges students to “go beyond their comfort zone” in order to learn and try new things. “A deep understanding of different cultures and different viewpoints is vital as an American citizen,” he said.

At Franklin, Brems also defined his understanding of being a citizen when he volunteered for then-Sen. Richard G. Lugar and with the Boys and Girls Club of Franklin. He believes his extracurricular and volunteer activities also made him competitive in the workplace. “At a school like Franklin, people more often err on the side of being over-involved than being under-involved. Personally, being involved with Kappa Delta Rho, Model UN, and part-time jobs around campus on top of my schoolwork shaped me into an effective teacher at Ohio State and then helped me adapt to the project-oriented workplace,” Brems said. “The heavy emphasis that Franklin puts on communication – learning how to speak clearly and write concisely – is unique. At the time I wondered why math and science majors had to write so much and present so frequently. Now I know that it has differentiated me, as well as those like me, in the job market.”

Brems’ internships at Franklin played into his learning how to critically think in order to solve problems. While in college, he held two internships as well as took a statistical consulting course under professor of mathematics Dan Callon ’77, Ph.D. Brems highly recommends the course that offered him his first real statistical consulting opportunity: “Showing what we knew by doing…this is the Franklin College experience.”