The University’s second annual Advanced Analytics Summit, which took place on Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Oct. 18, attracted more registrants from more institutions than last year, but the growth in attendance wasn’t the only way the event changed.
“The conversation is at a different level,” said Andrew Hannah, adjunct professor and executive-in-residence at Pitt Business. Hannah — who founded Othot, a predictive and prescriptive analytics company — thought the difference striking.
“Where there were a lot of people who came together to hear what people were doing differently, what I think we’ll see is a focus on a platform as opposed to individual issues,” he said. “The value of hearing about student success is a really strong theme.”
‘An engine for social mobility and progress’
Student success was a key point in opening remarks from Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd, who noted it as a common goal among the 124 registrants from 39 institutions.
“We want our students to find their purpose so they can contribute to our collective economic and civic well-being. We also want to be able to enable our students to build a global network of colleagues, of friends and collaborators so they can achieve their goals,” Cudd told the audience.
She also thanked Stephen Wisniewski, vice provost for data and information, for organizing the event: “It’s through his leadership that this summit has had immediate national impact, ensuring that the dialogues on vital topics around data analytics continue to advance.”
First and foremost is the need to make the best decisions possible to optimize the quality of students’ diverse educational opportunities. “Higher education, after all, is meant to be an engine of social mobility and progress,” she said.
When to act
Amelia Parnell, vice president for research and policy at NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, presented the summit’s keynote. A membership-based organization, NASPA provides professionals in the student life and student affairs fields with professional development opportunities, such as online programming and networking.
Parnell highlighted current challenges in analytics work, including managing risk and scaling solutions. The biggest question, she said, is when to act based on data.
There may not be an easy answer, but the Advanced Analytics Summit affords thought leaders from institutions across the world an opportunity to discuss the problem and explore solutions.
Parnell believed one of the most effective and promising uses for data science is increasing examinations of students’ ability to afford college — which she said Pitt is doing well. “With Pitt being a more selective institution, it’s understood that students are prepared, so I think the work [Cudd] mentioned to meet students’ financial needs is the way to go.”