Wharton Customer Analytics

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Students Gain Skills, Experience, and Camaraderie During Spring 2022 Analytics Accelerator

Wharton Customer Analytics (WCA) was thrilled to host the ninth Analytics Accelerator this Spring semester. Over the course of six weeks, seven student teams worked with WCA partners – Firstrust Bank, Fox Entertainment, IKEA, The Philadelphia Orchestra & Kimmel Center, Inc., and McDonald’s – using advanced data analytics techniques to solve unique business problems.

As the flagship experiential learning program at WCA, the Analytics Accelerator swaps the more traditional, manicured datasets of the classroom with the complex and sometimes messy data that real businesses create, helping students get a head start as they look toward their careers after school.

“The Analytics Accelerator is a way to take what you learn in your classroom and actually apply it to real world settings. I think there’s a fundamental difference between running a regression in class that’s been done a million times…and looking at a dataset for the first time and saying ‘no one knows what we’re going to find out of this,’” says Ashley Clarke, W’23, who studies finance and business analytics with a minor in data science. She served as the business engagement lead on her team’s project with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc., helping the newly merged entity get a better understanding of its combined customer base.

“This is an educational experience, and one of the core pillars of teaching at Wharton that has been repeated quite frequently is ‘experiential learning.’ You’re learning through experiences, and often times that can be more valuable than just sitting in a classroom, listening to an instructor talking to you about theory.”

Master’s student Yuhuang “Richard” Ou.

“This is an educational experience, and one of the core pillars of teaching at Wharton that has been repeated quite frequently is ‘experiential learning.’ You’re learning through experiences, and often times that can be more valuable than just sitting in a classroom, listening to an instructor talking to you about theory,” according to master’s student Yuhuang “Richard” Ou.

Although the Analytics Accelerator is a Wharton program, it welcomes applicants from across the University of Pennsylvania. Like Ou, Wanxing Dai is pursuing a master’s degree with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “All of my engineering courses are pretty tactical, like machine learning and big data analytics,” she says, “so when I looked over the introduction and overview about [the Accelerator] I felt like it might be a good fit. I would gain technical experience from industry, and, at the same time, I would gain leadership experience from working with a team and a corporation.”

While the program is designed to prepare students for life outside the classroom, this semester offered Ou, Dai, and the other students working on the Fox Entertainment project an opportunity to prepare for what could be the future for digital commerce – NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens. The goal of the Fox Entertainment project was for students to create a mechanism for charting general NFT sales for Fox’s hit television show, The Masked Singer, and to help gain a better understanding of churn, conversion, and retention. According to Gina Bahremand, WG’11, Vice President of Audience Research at Fox Entertainment, the team’s efforts paid off in spades.

“It really is just a tremendous experience, we enjoyed it so much. Having these conversations, it’s been such a luxury of riches. We’ve had so much to talk about and thoroughly just enjoyed working with the students. They’re so bright and they brought new ways of looking at problems. It’s like a dream project.”

Gina Bahremand, WG'11, also serves on the Wharton Customer Analytics Advisory Board

“It really is just a tremendous experience, we enjoyed it so much. Having these conversations, it’s been such a luxury of riches. We’ve had so much to talk about and thoroughly just enjoyed working with the students. They’re so bright and they brought new ways of looking at problems. It’s like a dream project.”

Gina Bahremand, WG’11

After a period of fully virtual coursework, this semester gave students the chance to develop their network of like-minded peers in-person. Throughout the six weeks of the Accelerator, WCA – in partnership with board members from the student club Wharton Analytics Fellows – facilitated a variety of social events in the brand-new Academic Research Building (ARB) on campus. These networking sessions provided students with the opportunity to meet with other teams and share their experiences thus far. From DiBruno Bros. lunches to interactive quizzes and scavenger hunts throughout the ARB, networking sessions also helped to relieve any tension that weeks of data-crunching can sometimes create.

Students participated in a scavenger hunt to familiarize themselves with the ARB

“I loved the socials on Friday,” says Dai. “It’s so nice to meet the staff and other students working on different projects, especially in-person. That experience is different from having a Zoom call. I liked the dynamics of meeting together and playing games and having lunch.”

For students working on the project with IKEA, whose U.S. digital headquarters is located near the University’s campus, the Accelerator provided even more opportunities for in-person networking. “We were pretty fortunate to get the chance to meet with IKEA [in-person] twice,” says Yunchong Liu, a first-year master’s student and business engagement lead on the IKEA project. “The experience was so great. You can see everyone’s smiling face. Normally you just sit in your room and you present yourself. When you do something in person, it’s more interactive, so it’s pretty easy to ask questions. It’s smooth and efficient.”

Something that all teams were able to enjoy, however, are the full benefits of experiential learning at Wharton.

“This program carries with it the Wharton name, and therefore it’s able to tap into all of these clients that we’ve been so fortunate to work with,” says Ou. “It also gives us the opportunity for us to build our connections with Wharton academics and with the client organization.”

Ashley Clarke, a veteran of the Accelerator, shared similar thoughts. “Every single Analytics Accelerator, I learned a new skill, a new model, a new way of thinking about data. I’m really grateful for this whole experience for not only sparking my interest in data science, but also for helping me learn so many of these techniques.”

“When you think about it, it’s a win-win for everybody,” says Eric Bradlow, the K.P. Chao Professor of Marketing at Wharton, and Vice Dean of Analytics at Wharton. “The students learn. The faculty that supervises them get to teach them the practical use of analytics, and the company or non-profit or organization that we’re working with benefits from our skills.”

About the Analytics Accelerator

Every fall and spring semester, Wharton Customer Analytics hosts the Analytics Accelerator, an experiential learning program that pairs students with a company to solve a real-world business problem using the company’s actual datasets and the latest techniques including machine learning and AI.

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