Super Analytics Challenge at Katz

Super Analytics Challenge at Katz

#KatzImpact: Super Analytics Challenge

Graduate Students Team Up to Combat Homelessness in the Pittsburgh Community


A new opportunity for Pitt students to be catalysts for change is underway in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

Recognizing the importance of leveraging business skills to positively impact critical social issues, the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business developed and launched its first-ever Super Analytics Challenge, a new community-based initiative. The 2021 challenge addresses the complex issue of homelessness in the Pittsburgh community and formally ran from March 5-26, 2021.

“Our team at Pitt Business worked alongside the University and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) to examine scenarios that either led people and families into becoming homeless or factors which may prevent homelessness,” says Christopher Barlow, Director of Corporate Engagement and Career Services. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, homelessness was selected as our focus because of its increasing prevalence as a global issue.”

The many contributing factors of homelessness, such as physical and mental health, the affordable housing supply, economic conditions, and the intersection of the judicial system, as well as the wide availability of published data and research, present an urgent opportunity for Pitt graduate students to provide meaningful insights and proposals for targeted mitigation efforts.

The Super Analytics Challenge served as a one-week hackathon-style competition where graduate students from across the University teamed up to frame a problem, create a data methodology, and generate an operable solution. Twenty-five students were appointed to five teams.

“The goal was for all student teams to generate innovative solutions that Allegheny County DHS may implement,” says Andrew Hannah, Adjunct Professor and Executive in Residence for Pitt Business. “Solutions were judged not only on the depth of their analytical thinking but also the pragmatism of the solution proposed.”

Pitt Business organized an advisory committee consisting of representatives from corporate partners at UPMC, Highmark, Accenture, SAP, the National Association of Counties, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Executives from these organizations not only helped shape the challenge, but served as executive coaches, analytical methods experts, and subject matter specialists who worked alongside the graduate students to share experience and knowledge and provide guidance on the proposed solutions.

“The Super Analytics Challenge is an example of Pitt Business reinventing business education,” says Sara Moeller, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs. “Our strategic goals include doing more to partner with our community as a catalyst for change, and to combine classroom concepts with integrated learning opportunities.”

The Super Analytics Challenge is designed to provide impact for all participants, so graduate students may leverage their business skills to work with local experts to combat homelessness. In addition, they will have the opportunity to hone their understanding of real-world concepts by working with experts on a critical issue.

The winning team from the Challenge was awarded a Katz Bridge Program fellowship to continue to implement their solution as a team. This is enabling students to drive even more impact related to this year’s Challenge topic of homelessness.

“At the end of this challenge, we hope that these collective efforts not only enrich our students’ learning experience but leave a positive impact on the wider Pittsburgh community,” says Moeller.
To learn more about how you can get involved in a program like the Super Analytics Challenge here at Pitt Business, please contact our career management team at

“We’re using our skills learned at Katz to dig deep into the data and draw some useful and applicable solutions. It’s helped me realize what we can do to better support homeless people in need.”

– Cara Chun Zhang, student in the Management Information Systems program

Hear more about the inaugural challenge…

…from Sara Moeller, associate dean for graduate programs and executive education in the Katz school, in this conversation with the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Jonathan Kersting.

Listen further to learn more on the results.

“The Super Analytics Challenge is an example of Pitt Business reinventing business education. Our strategic goals include doing more to partner with our community as a catalyst for change, and to combine classroom concepts with integrated learning opportunities.

Events like the Super Analytics Challenge showcase our students’ ability to use their leadership knowledge for good. We hope that these collective efforts not only enrich our students’ learning experience, but leave a positive impact on the wider Pittsburgh community.”

Sara Moeller

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Executive Education, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

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Create Your Own #KatzImpact

Prepare to be a catalyst for change with your Katz MBA degree. Here at Katz we prepare
leaders to shape organizations that embrace and impact humanity.

Announcing the AMA Pittsburgh 2021 Visiting Professor Program

Announcing the AMA Pittsburgh 2021 Visiting Professor Program

Last summer, during a pandemic, The CMO Club and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Pittsburgh) launched the VPP.  Similar to a college internship, the VPP invites marketing professors from the tri-state region into Pittsburgh agencies, marketing departments, and marketing organizations for a mutually beneficial experience during the summer.

Professors found value in the VPP, commenting that it “was great to learn in real-time about real-world problems relating to supply chain, eCommerce, and B2B” and that the VPP experience provided “an opportunity to learn about things I could use in my classroom” and “forged relationships that I believe can help students when networking.”

Participating companies found value as well. A theme shared after working with the selected VPP professor “intern” was that company leaders were able to see their organization “through someone else’s eyes…” and that the workshops and presentations led by the professors were “relevant” and “valuable.”

The attached information provides details regarding the timeline, goals, benefits, and expectations. Please review this carefully, as well as the program expectations, which outline your company’s commitment to participation.

Please join us for AMA Pittsburgh’s Summer 2021 Visiting Professor Program by applying for one of the opportunities to potentially be selected to “visit” a local marketing department, agency, or organization to virtually (or in person if safe/regulations allow) become a Visiting Professor!

To be considered, please complete the application found at this link by the end of day FRIDAY, April 23. The information you provide will facilitate the matching process and help companies identify professors best suited to their company and needs resulting in a mutually beneficial experience. Your application information will be available to participating companies to review. These companies will then rank their top three applicants. Last year, all participating organizations were matched with a professor from their top three!

If you have questions, please contact us directly, or contact AMA Pittsburgh at or Nan Nicholls listed below. We look forward to a successful and meaningful experience for your organization! (Please feel free to share this invitation with your marketing colleagues.)


Nan Nicholls*
Professor, Marketing
Slippery Rock University

Cindy Donohoe**
Highmark Health  

Sean Smith**
Schneider Downs 

*Board Member, VP Collegiate, AMA Pittsburgh Chapter

**Member, The CMO Club Pittsburgh Chapter


AMA Collegiate Case Competition 2021

AMA Collegiate Case Competition 2021

The 2021 American Marketing Association (AMA) Pittsburgh’s Collegiate Marketing Plan competition took place virtually on Friday March 26, 2021. Student teams from five area universities took on the challenge of developing innovative solutions to a well-written complicated and challenging hypothetical case for a hypothetical company.

Over the course of the spring semester, the collegiate teams gathered research, participated in question and answer sessions, and built their plans. A panel of professional Pittsburgh marketers served as judges, and selected the following teams as winners:

1st place – Messiah College (Ben Writer, Joe Crocenzi, and Joey DePaul)
2nd place – Chatham University (Abigail Kneuss, Charles Bradsher)
3rd place – Slippery Rock University (Ben DeRose, Cody Nicastro, Ethan Corbin, Nolan Alan)

Congratulations to all teams above as well as University of Mount Union and West Virginia University who all participated in this year’s competition. From a WVU student participant “The competition was a great experience to see what our peers in other schools are doing when it comes to business, [and] just a good life experience in general…”

As AMA Pittsburgh’s VP of Collegiate Relations, along with our competition sponsor, Robert Morris University, and case author, Dr. Steve Clinton, we extend our thanks to each of the competing student teams and their marketing faculty/advisors. In these “no contact” times, it is refreshing to know that students are still willing to roll up their sleeves, apply things they’ve learned in on-ground and virtual classrooms, and dig in to and learn even more to participate in the case competition.

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing

By Dwayne Waite Jr, Marketing Manager- Schell Games

As brands and organizations look at the future landscape of marketing, advertising, and public relations, one thing is clear- having a stance on influencer marketing is crucial in 2021 and beyond. Either you add it into your marketing mix, or you don’t. If not, you have to have a great reason why when supporting your opinion. Let’s talk about where influencer marketing came from, what shifts in consumer consumption and technological advances made influencer marketing easier, and why all communications professionals should evaluate their marketing strategy to see where influencer marketing activities can- or should- fit.

Influencer Marketing is Nothing New

I recently gave a talk during the Indie Game Business 2020 Winter Summit about influencer marketing (video at the end of this article). While I was preparing my presentation, I decided to take a look back through several of my university textbooks to see if I could trace where this concept of ‘influencer marketing’ came from. Not surprisingly, this kind of behavior, consumer looking toward opinion leaders who could then shape their own decision-making, is nothing new.

In the 3rd edition of Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach (Guth & Marsh, 2006), an executive from the global public relations agency Burson-Marsteller (now BCW-Global) talked about how, in 2006, their team looked to discover whom they called “E-fluentials”.

Through a series of telephone interviews and online research with a panel of consumers, we soon discovered that a small segment of internet users- perhaps no more than 10 percent- were disproportionately more influential than others. We dubbed these online influentials “e-fluentials”, and now know how they influence friends, family and colleagues.

In the 4th edition of Advertising & Integrated Brand Promotion (O’Guinn/Allen/Semenik, 2006), those authors wrote of a trend of tracking ‘reference groups‘, and in particular, the rise and power of ‘brand communities‘, which they defined as “…groups of consumers who feel a commonality and a shared purpose grounded or attached to a consumer good or service.”

The promise of community- not to be alone, to share appreciation and admiration of something or someone, no matter how odd or inappropriate others feel it to be- is fulfilled in online communities.

This information suggests that people have always been looking for a sense of community, and, as Seth Godin would put it, looking to find a tribe and be led. Now let’s consider how technology fueled this search for community and community leaders.

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The Proliferation of the Citizen Reviewer

I distinctly remember my 101 Communications professor at Elon University pulling me aside and encouraging me to enter my paper, “Rise of the Blogosphere”, into the university’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (fondly known as SURF in the Elon community). I was (and, still am) incredibly curious about the boom of blogs, citizen journalism, and most importantly- the insatiable appetite the consuming public had for information from non-experts. This, by the way, was in 2005. Since then, the tide continues to roar, with no clear indication of slowing down.

Online forums are not any different from blogs. Again, at Elon, this time during my Integrated Marketing Communications course, in 2007, our class split into teams to take on a marketing case study featuring a small business in Mebane, NC, a small town about 20 minutes away from campus. There, we learned that there was a HUGE knitting and yarn community in Yahoo! groups. There were even questionnaires you had to answer before you were admitted into the groups. And again, with the rise of technology, we see Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups, and mobile-first communities like AnimoApps, and more.

Rise of social media is something generations will always remember

Generations to come will look at the years 2003-2015 to research how social media changed society. Social media changed the way we interact with people, keep up with our loved ones (or hated ones), how we work, how we’re entertained. If social media changed all that personally, it is only natural that it would have a profound impact on the marketing and communications industry.

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New Media Matures

We all continue to watch the news, read the articles and follow our own favorite opinion leaders about the latest and greatest when it comes to social and digital media. What was once the wild west is slowly maturing. Now, instead of brands asking the question, “should we be on social media?”, many properly ask, “which social media network(s) should we as a brand focus on?” But, as media matures, we still see iterations to keep our hearts pattering. For example, shareable or ‘snackable’ media, short video or images, is becoming more popular. We can thank the international phenomenon TikTok (and its addictive algorithm) for that.

Another reason why we should continue watching new media, and why influencers have risen to popularity amongst the communications industries, is the (continued) growth of apathy and distaste towards advertising and earned media. It’s interesting to point out, though, that people still use and appreciate advertising in helping with their decision-making. Why the disconnect? There are many variables to consider, but a relevant reason is that person who get their information from content creators believe that these influencers are more genuine than the brand that is advertising. Why?

We need to recognize that communal consumption and digital communities are real, and important to people when it comes to gathering information for products and services. My wife is in a Facebook group for Mothers, and if there is a product or service that a group of mothers are against, there is no way that product is coming into our house- no matter or glitzy the ad is (or even if the group doesn’t have all the information).

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Brands Notice and an Industry Emerges

If a consumer can’t put trust in your advertising, but you need to make sure good and reliable information gets out, what can you do? Brands have been watching this trend for a long time, it was only a matter of the right juxtaposition of need, technology, and timing for Influencer marketing to arrive. To answer the question, brands found a way to empower these opinion leaders, provide them with goods and services to review, using the influencer’s choice of platform, while the consumer enjoys the feeling of community while listening to their community leader.

‘Influencers’ Becomes a Dirty Word to ‘Content Creators’

I pointed out in my presentation on influencer marketing that there ‘used’ to be a difference between ‘influencers’ and ‘content creators.’ Influencers, in its early stage, were people searching for paid opportunities only and reviewing goods and services, and developing a following there. Are there still some of those? Sure. But the cream of the crop and the ones proudly serving their communities are ‘content creators’, people who do a mix of paid and organic (real) content to delight their audience and community. These creators would only work with brands and products they would genuinely use, and have a built an audience because those people relate to that creator. The latter definition is the new ‘influencer.’ We like those people.

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Federal Regulation Appears and The Need for Standardization Emerges

Influencer marketing, in terms of a piece of your marketing mix, is still evolving. For example, there is still no standard in pricing or contracts for brands and content creators. The Federal Trade Commission is lagging far behind in creating regulations that will protect all parties involved with influencer marketing- the consumer, the brand, and the influencer. We are in exciting times to see how influencer marketing will shape up in the years to come.

What’s Next?

Influencer marketing will only get bigger, as new media pushes boundaries in how people communicate and consume information. Brands are getting more creative and competent in using influencers in their marketing mix. And finally, content creators are figuring out how to make a living in delighting their communities, so that’s pretty exciting too.