Leading the Way in Data Analytics
The growth in the volume of data collected each year by industry, government, nonprofits, and educational institutions makes it important for college students and working professionals alike to understand how information and insights from data can effect positive change in an organization.
This is at the heart of what we do in the Center for Organizational Analytics. Our student projects, conferences, workshops, and professional training demonstrate how data analytics provide solutions for problems that confront organizations and institutions of all sizes.
In that regard, the 2022-2023 academic year was an undisputed success.
We witnessed a significant increase in the number of students who interned for the Center, which meant we were able to expand our number of client partners. We invited industry experts to lead several of our popular data camps. Health analytics was the focus of our annual Elon Analytics Day. We’re now making plans to deepen our connections throughout the campus community with the arrival of Elon University’s Data Nexus initiative and its first director.
With an eye toward the next academic year, you can expect data camps and presentations related to generative AI and large language models. We also plan to have a new series of in-person panel discussions & conversations with senior analytics leaders from industry.
I look forward to all that awaits. It’s going to be an exciting 2023-2024 and we invite students from all majors and the broader campus community to participate in our events!
Dr. Manoj Chari
Director, Center for Organizational Analytics
Assistant Professor of Business Analytics
P.S.: I did not use ChatGPT to help write this letter 😊!
A Hub of Learning
The Center for Organizational Analytics hosted seven data camps taught by Love School of Business faculty and industry professionals. Data camps are tutorials free for Elon students and faculty students who receive a certificate and, in some instances, a micro-credential upon successful completion. Data camps aim to:
- Provide hands-on technical training with tools such as Tableau, R programming, Web Analytics, and Alteryx. These tutorials allow student participants to acquire skills that give them a head start in some coursework. For other students, camps provide exposure to technical skills they may not typically acquire in their major of study.
- Introduce students to industry best practices in data analytics via tutorials by experts with a special focus on topics not usually covered in undergraduate analytics coursework. In 2022-2023, the Center welcomed speakers from Dataiku, Carolina Biological Supply Company, and RTI International.
Data Camp Testimonials
Grace Dieleman ’24 (Business Analytics)
The R Programming Data Camp was a great way to get an introduction to some coding programs and languages before I decided to declare a Business Analytics major. I am very appreciative of the hard skills that the Love School of Business teaches and facilitates and am grateful for the many opportunities they provide us. I would highly recommend any data camp to anyone interested in pursuing a Business Analytics major and someone that wants data experience!
Professor Catherine Chiang (Chair of the Department of Accounting)
Attending these data camps was incredibly enriching and relevant for my development as a professor and researcher, particularly in a world where data is increasingly central to decision-making. The in-depth focus on addressing bias and equity in data and algorithms during one of the camps not only heightened my awareness of these crucial issues but also equipped me with practical tools and strategies to eliminate bias in my own work, which will significantly enhance the quality and inclusivity of my data-driven decisions.
Student Projects with Community Partners
The Center’s most important activities are projects that teams of students undertake with regional businesses and community nonprofit organizations. Partners during the 2022-2023 year included:
- Acrisure Reinsurance Co.
- Carolina Biological Supply
- Go Global
- StepUp Durham
- Orange County Animal Shelter
- Corral Riding Academy
- The Elon IT department
Most engagements are expected to continue into the next academic year. While some work relies on proprietary data, this publicly available visualization dashboard illustrates a student team project for the nonprofit StepUp Durham.
Projects give the students invaluable hands-on practical experience in working with data – with all its potential for providing business insights combined with the challenges inherent in messiness and incompleteness of real-world data. Teamwork, understanding the business context, effective communication with stakeholders, and presenting business results are just some of the soft skills students gain.
Eric Maxon, Senior Marketing Analyst, Carolina Biological Supply Company
Carolina Biological Supply has worked with Elon’s Center for Organizational Analytics for over four years now. We have had students work on a multitude of projects ranging in difficulty and intensity. Survival analysis on churning customers, text analytics for website reviews, and forecasting units sold for thousands of products are some of the highlights of the work they have performed.
The main objective for our projects with students is to expand their knowledge and analytical skills working with real-world data. Teaching them the messiness and troubles of working with large scale datasets and systems allows students to have a better understanding of the applications of the skills they are taught in the classroom.
The most valuable skills and traits a student can bring to a project is attentiveness, an eagerness to learn, and never being afraid to ask a lot of questions. With those three qualities any student can learn to bring valuable insights to not just our company, but their future workspace.
Our goal at Carolina Biological has always been to focus on all aspects of education. From the teacher to the administrator to the students, we look to add value to everyone’s learning and teaching experience. Working with Elon’s Center for Organizational Analytics has been a great way for us to follow that mission while adding value to our analytics initiatives.
Matthew Rose, Senior Vice President, Acrisure Re
Acrisure Re has been privileged to pursue two projects with the Center over the last eight years, both related to achieving & maintaining real-time data access to a cohort of 12 insurance company clients. The first project handles the programming of the interfaces to the data that produces the outputs required by our internal financial and statistical models used to price and market our clients’ individual reinsurance programs, and the companion second project discovers insights and designs dashboards for returning actionable performance analytics to each client.
Our hope is that the students will gain a working knowledge of the P&C insurance business and related data & analytics pertinent to understanding a company’s risk profile. A key capstone to these projects is ultimately the confidence and capability of the students to present their work and its conclusions directly to any client. Key qualities desired in students include intellectual curiosity, courage, resilience, and determination, all to spearheading data science capabilities new to our shop, and, critically, an attitude of devotion to meeting the clients’ needs.
We are committed to our partnership with the Center for Organizational Analytics because of the energy and creativity the students bring to our business, which is refreshing to us and our clients. It is also an important opportunity for Acrisure to advance awareness of careers in our business, and to sponsor internships that provide meaningful experiences for the students to contribute to its vital mission.
Tim Wollin, Operations Director, StepUp Durham
Students with Elon’s Center for Organizational Analytics Center have provided analytics and a data visualization of those analytics for all our program data since we opened in 2015, and I hope students gain insight and awareness for the needs of people experiencing systemic challenges and barriers.
The qualities and attitudes that make our best partnerships are curiosity, a willingness to keep asking questions, and a hope that systems can be better for people. We would like to continue working with Elon students because the results have been fantastic and we’d like them to be updated. We also have new analytics to pursue regarding the changing social and economic landscape in Durham, volunteer engagement, and donor development.
Student & Graduate Testimonials
Adam Dubowy '22 (Business Analytics and Computer Science)
The Center for Organizational Analytics was monumental to my growth and development at Elon. In the field of analytics there is no better way to learn and develop new skills like working on a real project. For myself, I loved being thrown in the deep end of analytics because it allowed me to think creatively to solve problems that I have never seen before. As much as this helped me grow my technical skills, my soft skills grew even more. Not only did I gain practice and experience presenting and speaking about technical topics but this naturally built up my confidence so in internship and job interviews I knew exactly how to approach a problem or answer a question and I don’t think I would have gotten my current job as a data engineer without my experiences in the Center.
Carter Horan '23 (Media Analytics & Statistics)
My experience with Carolina Biological was crucial in learning how to work with clients in the data field. Working alongside fellow Elon students, we solved problems and learned more about using R. Our strategies used real data to help clients understand sales and marketing on a deeper level. The Center for Organizational Analytics challenges you and yet doesn’t have the pressure of a real class!
Radhika Tawade '23 (Business Analytics & Supply Chain Management)
Joining the Center for Organizational Analytics at Elon was such an invaluable experience for me. Through my involvement, I’ve been able to understand how to effectively communicate data into visualizations that tell a story. The hands-on projects allowed me to develop a strong foundation in data analysis, visualization, and interpretation.
Elon Health Analytics Day
Researchers and industry experts encouraged students with an interest in business analytics to learn about data analytics applications and consider careers in health care during Elon Health Analytics Day on March 31, 2023. The daylong program featured insights from four speakers who discussed their work with improving hospital operations, identifying more effective medical recommendations based on human behaviors tracked with data, and researching the impact of emerging approaches to medicine and to pandemic responses.
- Steve Kearney, global medical director at SAS where he helps lead the organization’s focus on the future of digital health for R&D, product management, and the SAS Health Solutions team
- Tarun Mohan Lal, an experienced analytics healthcare leader with a passion for innovation, transformation and community support to improve lives
- Maria E. Mayorga, a professor of personalized medicine and director of graduate recruitment and success in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University
- Alexander “Sandy” Preiss, a research data scientist at RTI International’s Center for Data Science and AI
“They all provided a unique perspective of analytics in the health field, and they tailored it specifically to where we could all understand it.” – Will Gatchel ’23
Several students from the School of Health Sciences also made presentations during a special lunch program where they shared research findings.
“As much as we learn from doing our own research, we also learn so much from the people who come up to our posters and share a little bit about what they’ve learned from doing similar research and some of their own perspectives. Every presentation we make gets us feedback on what else we can do with our work.” – Zachary Ormond ’23