More Than Data — Getting To Know Luke Tuttle
By Jake Harper, Impact Fellow.
Talking to Sorenson Impact Fellow Luke Tuttle yields a very clear theme: he wants people to understand each other. Prior to receiving a B.A. in linguistics from the University of Utah this past May, Luke completed a research internship through the National Science Foundation at Ohio State University. While there, he spent about half of his time doing linguistic research and the other half doing science education outreach in various settings. When asked why he chose to study linguistics, he said, “Linguistics looks at a fundamental aspect of what makes us who we are—the way we communicate with others. Like other areas of science, it can get very complex, very fast. So, talking about complicated theories and concepts in a straightforward, understandable way is an ability that I’m really proud to have developed during my internship at Ohio State.” Further expressing his desire for understanding, he said, “It’s important to meet people at the level they come to you at. Don’t just assume someone’s level of knowledge; ask them about it.” He explained that when two people are speaking, the sooner they get on the same page, the deeper they can understand each other.
This desire to facilitate understanding has been enhanced and satisfied by his time at Sorenson Impact. Luke has been involved with an ongoing project responsible for gathering, interpreting, and utilizing data on preschool usage in several Salt Lake communities. From getting the project approved, to collecting the data, to translating much of the information from Spanish to English, Luke has been involved with this project from start to finish.
His long-term goals are perfectly inline with what Sorenson Impact has allowed him to do. He wants to take on a career in data science. He chuckled when asked to bridge the gap between a linguistics degree and a data science career. “Linguistics is all about observing something you take for granted in the world. Not just going off of your intuitions, but actually investigating what’s going on at a really deep level. Using data to tell stories about the human experience. A big part of data science is utilizing the data that’s out there to tell us why we do what we do.” Specifically referring to the projects he works on at the Center, he commented, “Computer coding really scratches my language itch. Learning a computer language has been much more similar to learning a natural, human language than I thought it would be.”
Luke also expressed a lot of gratitude for the mentoring he’s received through Sorenson Impact. “It’s been incredible to have access to so many knowledgeable people that are also good communicators. Some people are very knowledgeable but they can’t communicate their knowledge very well. That’s not the case with the people at Sorenson.”
After discussing his future goals, he thought for a while and said, “I hope the work I do in my life will provide answers to questions we don’t currently have answers to, especially about how we can help people who are often overlooked or misunderstood. Helping people that feel like outsiders has always been a very important value to me.” He said that it can be overwhelming trying to envision exactly what you want to become or who you want to be. Instead, he’s adopted the simple but profound mantra to leave the world a better place than he found it. “If I can say I’ve done that at the end of my life then I’ll be pleased.” More immediately, Luke will be applying to a data-related graduate program sometime in the next two years. Meanwhile, he will be working as an English educator in southern Spain and plans to offer his time doing analysis work for organizations with a social impact mission in the Salt Lake Valley. When asked why analysis and why Spain he replied, “Speaking Spanish fluently has been a lifelong dream of mine. It’s a means to connect with my Hispanic heritage and more importantly, with our Spanish speaking community. As for analysis, I’ve realized that I love coding and I want to continue building my skills and helping my community, even if I’m away from it for a few months.”
Don’t get the wrong idea about Luke; he’s not all data, nor linguistics, all the time. He’s also an avid photographer. His favorite genre is “street photography”. He loves the curiosity and wonder that a picture of an interesting looking stranger can inspire. “There’s a feeling I get when I see a picture of someone who seems unusual or even just very different than me. I want to know their story. I want to know what brought them to be standing there, with those clothes, wearing that expression, right when the shutter clicked open to capture that exact moment.” He also laughed as he shared the story of when he did a semester abroad in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. While riding on a crowded bus one day, he was robbed at gunpoint by a pair of teenagers. Normally, people would relay a story like this with a sense of fear or gratitude for being alive. Instead, Luke was borderline impressed with the thieves. “They waited until we went through a tunnel so that no one could see what they were doing. By the time we exited the tunnel, they’d disappeared into the crowd of people. They were so smooth. They definitely knew what they were doing.” Who laughs at a story like this? Who marvels at the kids that robbed them at gunpoint? Luke Tuttle does.