A Day for Data

Business Analytics Symposium 2021

The Culverhouse College of Business and the Institute of Data and Analytics (IDA) hosted their annual Business Analytics Symposium on Oct. 15. The event comprised seven sessions in total with speakers representing companies that operate in various industries who emphasized the significance of data in everyday business decisions and five speakers from government agencies and The University of Alabama who spoke on the use of analytics to address social problems. Each of the presentations focused on different applications of data and analytics, which illuminated the expansiveness of the analytics space.

Dr. Jim Cochran, associate dean for research at Culverhouse, sees a bright future for those who pursue careers in the analytics field.

“I’m confident in saying that solving complex, real problems is never going to go out of style,” said Cochran. “Those who are capable of solving real, consequential problems will always be important to society, to business, and to our economy.”

Drs. Jason Parton and Dwight Lewis of the IDA teamed-up with Thera Tyner, Senior Managed Care Analyst with the Alabama Medicaid Agency, to walk the audience through how data and analytics are instrumental in improving the capacity of healthcare services for prospective patients. Parton, Lewis, and Tyner addressed the potential of automation in improving labor cost-efficiencies and growing the capacity for analytic work. The three described their revolutionary comprehensive analytic tool designed to do just that for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, which was recognized as a finalist for the INFORMS 2021 Innovative Applications in Analytics Award.

Drs. Burcu Keskin and Nikolas Freeman, who both teach in the Department of Information Systems, Statistics, and Management Science at Culverhouse, gave the final presentation. The pair, along with Dr. Gregory J. Bott, have been working with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to disrupt sex trafficking networks. Bott, Freeman, and Keskin developed a tool to apply advanced analytics to advertisement data collected from the internet. Their efforts have led to more than 70 arrests in Tuscaloosa alone since February 2021 and was recognized as a finalist for the 2021 Wagner Prize for Excellence in the Practice of Advanced Analytics and Operations Research. “It is extremely fulfilling to know we have had a measurable, positive impact on society,” said
Dr. Freeman.

Speakers from industry included Janine Johnson, vice president of predictive models for Visa; Jeremy TerBush, senior vice president of enterprise data and strategic analysis for Travel + Leisure Co.; Dr. Ilyas Iyoob, chief data scientist and distinguished engineer for IBM; Dot Green, manager of predictive analytics for the Delta Air Lines operations decision science team; and Matt Hall, Modeling Analyst on the Data Science Delivery team with USAA Federal Savings Bank’s Fraud and Central Operations organization and a two-time Culverhouse College graduate.

You can review the program and the abstracts and learn more about the speakers at the symposium’s website at ida.culverhouse.ua.edu/basymposium. This website also features interviews with the speakers and participants as well as information on previous symposia and details on the 2022 Culverhouse Business Analytics Symposium, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 14.

In addition to providing a broad overview of the applications of analytics to a wide variety of problems in business and society, the all-day event gave students in the Manderson Graduate School of Business MBA program and specialized master’s programs the opportunity to introduce each speaker to the audience and network with the speakers and other attendees from industry throughout the event.

Cochran, who served as moderator for the event, highlighted the strides that Culverhouse has made in the data and analytics field in his closing remarks.

“I hope this event has demonstrated to you how broad the Culverhouse College of Business is, and how its faculty and students display a remarkable range of skills and expertise in analytics and other disciplines,” Cochran said.

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