#KatzImpact: Super Analytics Challenge

Graduate Students Team Up to Combat Homelessness in the Pittsburgh Community
 

4/15/2021

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 careermanagement@katz.pitt.edu.

“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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