Staff Spotlight: Rebekah Jacob

Got data? Rebekah Jacob is your go-to person at the PRC.
Jacob is the PRC’s Data Manager, helping researchers to analyze data whenever needed. She’s worked in a variety of roles at the center and elsewhere since graduating from the Brown School in 2013 with a joint MSW/MPH degree: Project manager, evaluator, analyst. But whatever her setting, she keeps coming back to the data.
“I like that data provides a framework you can apply across the board in so many different areas,” she says. “It’s the same challenge: To make your data talk. You have a story and need to tell it.” She’s helped tell those stories with public television, community programs, and state health departments, among others. “Each time, I learn something new along the way,” she says.
Her current role at the PRC began two years ago when the center was fully funded and needed data help across a broad array of projects. One of her current projects involves evaluation for the Implementation Science in Cancer Control Center (ISC3); WU’s ISC3 is one of seven across the U.S. She’s now leading a cross-center effort in developing a manuscript for the initiative’s social network analysis. A survey was launched last year, working with the National Cancer Institute to help measure collaborations among the different centers, one of ISC3’s main aims.
“One major focus of the seven centers is building the capacity of the field of implementation science to do research. Growing the network and connecting more people with common research aims elevates the work and increases the potential of the field,” she says. Helping early-career researchers with pilot grants creates jumping-off points for future funding and research. “Making those connections cross-center is really key, and helps grow the capacity,” she says.
Jacob returned to the PRC after working for nearly two years at KETC, the Public Broadcasting Service TV station in St. Louis, which coordinated a national initiative of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to raise awareness and understanding of the causes of high school drop-out rates. She was part of the evaluation team for the effort. “I loved it,” she says. “It was a unique project.” Unfortunately, when a new administration moved into the White House in 2016, public media funding was cut and the project wasn’t renewed.
PBS’s loss was the PRC’s gain, as Jacob became its data guru. “I love helping people with data stuff,” she says. Working virtually from home due to the pandemic has been a challenge. “In the office, I was a lot more accessible to students; I could run right over to their computers. We’re trying to think of ways we can engage with people to get the help they need. Sometimes it’s hard for people to get out of their comfort zone and ask for help.”
Outside of work, the data point Jacob faces every day is: 4. As in four children, the youngest nine months and the oldest 15 years. So she’s kept busy at her home in Florissant with sports, Girl Scouts (she was a Gold Awardee), gardening, playing the guitar, and biking the Katy Trail.
And when her kids get a bit older and have some trouble at school with data? They won’t have to go far for the best help around.