Business Analytics Team Harnesses Big Data for Bigger Rewards

With one-on-one tutorials from faculty mentor Dr. Musa Jafar, a diverse team of students discovers the art and science of decision-making.

Big data can reap big rewards, that is, if you’re adept at the art and science of decision-making.

The Business Analytics Competition at Manhattan College (BAC@MC), now in its third year, is an opportunity for undergraduates to practice just that, by gleaning intelligence from data and translating it into a business advantage. It’s not a task for the uninitiated. It requires specialization in a variety of areas, from creative visualization techniques to advanced statistical analysis. Diverse teams tend to produce the best results.

Musa Jafar, Ph.D., associate professor of Accounting, CIS and Law, assembled a team that hails from two schools and three majors at the College: computer information systems majors Ryan-arnold Gamilo ’19 and Christopher Sandoli ’17, mathematics major Hope Miedema ’17, and accounting major Patrick O’Connor ’18. They’ve been working independently and as a group since February, building an arsenal of skills as they analyze the data that was given to them as part of phase one of the competition. (Read more about the competition format.)

“Everybody contributes something and Dr. Jafar definitely did a good job at turning us into a well-balanced team,” Gamilo says, noting that as the team’s faculty adviser, Jafar gave one-on-one tutorials on everything from computer programs like Tableau to programming languages such as R, often in the evenings or over the weekend.

Coordinating schedules while balancing a full course load and an array of extracurricular activities has forced the team to give up their Friday nights this semester. They often work in a classroom in De La Salle Hall well into the evening. But each member of the team agrees, the rewards are well worth the sacrifices.

“Preparing for this competition was pretty much an independent study at times where I get to learn all these things that I didn't learn during my math studies,” Miedema says. “I was just trying to take advantage of all those one-on-one sessions with an expert in the field.”

“All of the software and the programming languages are useful for outside of the classroom, in a career,” Sandoli adds. “Having experience with these tools, and having it on your resume — that's huge. Overall, it's been a great learning experience.”

So that’s why, on May 22, as the team goes up against more than 50 participants from 16 colleges and universities from the U.S., Canada and Palestine, the team will be focusing on more than the first place prize.

“The competition will require us to show what we found in the data, but we want to show Dr. Jafar that we took in everything he taught us,” Miedema says. “He’s put so much into us this semester, so rather than win the competition, we want to make him proud.”

Read more about the Business Analytics Competition at Manhattan College.
By Sarah Schwartz