Christopher Barlow, director of Career Management & Corporate Engagement at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, shared this summary of the 2023 Super Analytics Challenge during which University of Pittsburgh graduate students, supported by numerous experts, used data to recommend solutions to address a societal issue:
As the third annual Katz Super Analytics Challenge concluded, Albrecht Powell, managing director of digital data and analytics at Accenture and chairperson of the Challenge’s Advisory Committee, kicked off the finale. He congratulated the students on following this path created through the Challenge—a learning path on how to apply data analytics to solve problems as well as an intersecting path to better comprehend large complex societal issues that have no easy answers.
The 2023 topic was mental health access: specifically increased demand for mental health services and a corresponding supply constraint of frontline workers. This is a crushing problem for individuals, families, and local communities, causing profound ripple effects.
Gathered at the University Club on February 17, 2023, we had a strong contingent of our Katz Community together to hear the student teams’ concluding solutions. Looking at the faces of the people who support this academic endeavor aimed at having a social impact, Albrecht’s statement on paths struck me. We had colleagues from the government, non-profits, corporations, Pitt schools, and other universities – crossing paths on this February day.
Why was this important? The spirit of the Challenge is to coalesce our community so we can energize our students to stretch their smarts, but more so, to then take these ideas back into the community and fund fellowships through the Bridge Program. Our goal is impact.
So, while the Challenge finale is a juncture, it puts us on paths to partnership so that we can make a difference. Even if that difference is modest, it’s a start.
As an example, the first year of the Challenge in 2021 we focused on homelessness. An idea was to simplify the lives of homeless especially during the pandemic. Accenture funded the winning team. From that seed the Pitt team began working with the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community (HMBFC). They installed portable handwashing stations.
Then in 2022, we focused on food insecurity. We learned from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank that they have grant dollars to fund cold refrigeration storage, so we focused a Bridge Program team to work again with the HMBFC. That funding is now secure, which will enable that food pantry to serve exponentially more people meals on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
This is just one example of a partnership path that made a positive impact in the community.
This year’s winning team had an idea to improve access to summer programming for teenagers. Other teams brought forward concepts to:
- connect veterans with PTSD to pet companionship;
- through the Allegheny County website, add AI tools to improve navigability to mental health support;
- for people incarcerated, support assimilation through wellness programs; and
- map the need for mental health care to the micro of who can help them in their personal support networks.
One thing that I have learned through three years of supporting the Super Analytics Challenge is that the path to impact may not always be clear, but through being a supportive, collaborative, and open partner in the community, our business school can influence change. We can be a good neighbor.