Visual Analytics Day at Bryant brought together the University’s world-class faculty and industry-tested experts to prepare students for an immersive day of workshops and presentations to help Bryant students learn about real-world data analytics and develop skills that are in high demand across industries.
The conference, sponsored by Bryant's College of Business, Center for Health and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Information Systems and Analytics (ISA), Department of Mathematics and Economics, and Department of Marketing, helped students learn how to analyze data and present that analysis effectively. It also explored the use of interactive visualization and visual analytics across a range of areas such as marketing, fintech, and healthcare analytics.
“I was really interested in learning more about analytics and visualizations because I know they’ll be an important part of my career when I graduate,” noted Louise Offersen’23, who is pairing her Marketing major with a concentration in Applied Statistics and a Communication minor. “This was a great way to hear from some really amazing speakers.”
“It was really interesting to see the amazing things they could do with visualization techniques,” she noted. “It helped us understand how we can use what we’re learning in the real world.”
Bryant data experts share valuable insights
Associate Professor of Marketing Kacy Kim, faculty leader for the event, provided a practical introduction to developing visualizations and noted the process’s uniquely interdisciplinary nature. “Data is great but just having the data is not enough,” she reminded the students. Using a variety of examples across a range of areas, she explored how the brain responds to information and gave examples of techniques for creating meaningful data-driven experiences.
Drawing upon her research at the intersection of data science and the health sciences, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Analytics Tinting Zhao, a co-organizer for the day, demonstrated the powerful tools, including Python and R, available for visualizing and processing large and diverse data sets. That power, she said, was increasingly important in an increasingly data-driven world. “We are producing a huge chunk of data, every minute—every second,” she told the audience.
In his presentation, Professor of Economics Ramesh Mohan, also a co-organizer, offered advice on using dashboards and other tools to augment analysis and drive change. “In any field, if you go to your supervisor and tell them, ‘I want to make a change,’ they will say to you, ‘Where is your data?” he noted. Mohan advised the students that there is both an art and a science to creating persuasive visualizations. “The visual dashboard you create means nothing if your story means nothing,” he suggested.
Bryant graduate Dustin Cabral ’09, now a Data Analytics consultant at Cleartelligence, returned to campus to discuss his experiences with data visualization as well as ways that Bryant’s students can increase their data literacy and prepare for future careers in an area that has become relevant for nearly every industry. “I was pretty surprised by everything that Bryant is offering in the field right now,” he remarked. “I think one of the best ways Bryant can put itself on the data analytics map is to showcase some of the things it’s already doing.”
Learning to make a difference with data visualization and analysis
Members of Rhode Island’s data analytics community offered their expertise as well. Kim Vitiello, Principal Solution Engineer for Tableau at Salesforce, presented some valuable tips for creating effective visualizations. Andrew Schoepfer, Associate Athletic Director/Revenue Generation and Data Strategy at Providence College, walked students through how he uses data analytics in his work to analyze trends, solve problems, and optimize value. Bill Rebello, founder of the Rhode Island Tableau User Group discussed some of the work the group had done on behalf of nonprofit organizations to aid them in their efforts.
Economics major Aidan Wilkinson ’24 came away from the conference energized. “Data analytics drives so much of the world today and can highlight so many different, unrepresented areas,” he stated. “It provides us with an incredibly important way to show people what’s actually going on in the world. To tell a story about where we are, where we’re going, and where we’ve been.”
He was excited to use what he had learned to shine a spotlight on complex issues like income inequality and help make them more understandable. “Using some of the techniques the presenters are highlighting today, we can hopefully help start to address some of the problems going on in the world,” he said.