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Photo of Cassandra Reffner
Cassandra Reffner

For Cassandra Reffner, winning the Temple Analytics Challenge for a second straight year was about honing her visual storytelling skills one data set at a time.

“Graphic design isn’t just about making these things look nice, but also telling a story,” Reffner said.

A senior graphic design student from the Tyler School of Art, Reffner took home the $2,500 grand prize at the third annual Temple Analytics Challenge, held Nov. 16 in the MBA Commons at the Fox School of Business.

Organized by the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), the competition awards prizes totaling $10,000, from corporate members of IBIT and the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Temmple University. The Temple Analytics Challenge focuses on making sense of big data through visualization — a key component of data analytics cited by experts as a promising path to job opportunities.

This year, the Temple Analytics Challenge awarded 10 prizes totaling $10,000. The competition saw participation increase by 300 percent over the previous year, with 395 entries. Participating teams included 719 students from eight of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges, as well as students from the State University of New York and Cornell University. The finalists came from programs in the Tyler School of Art, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Engineering, the School of Media and Communications, the College of Public Health, and the Fox School of Business.

“The Temple Analytics Challenge emphasizes the Fox School’s commitment to teaching and research in the various fields connected to big data,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business and the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. “But big data and data visualization are academic components in which students across Temple University regularly engage. This truly was a university-wide competition.”

Corporate partners provided competitors with large sets of data that they must analyze and visualize in a way that is both innovative and accessible. This year’s partners included Merck Pharmaceuticals, QVC, and The Pennsylvania Ballet.

Photo of presentation
Cassandra Reffner’s presentation on The Pennsylvania Ballet earned her the grand prize at the Temple Analytics Challenge for a second consecutive year.

Reffner, who won the Temple Analytics Challenge in 2014, chose to work with the data from The Pennsylvania Ballet, saying she could see the visuals presented within the data set. In the Pennsylvania Ballet challenge, students had to conceptualize the best way for the company to attract new audience members.

“With our limited resources, we just don’t have the time or the staff to do this kind of imagining,” said David Gray, executive director of The Pennsylvania Ballet. “Having so many smart and creative people trying to help us address challenges is a godsend.”

To expand on the project’s proposal, Reffner scrolled through various mentions the company received on social media — from Tweets and hashtags to status updates — to see what about the company got people talking. She said was intrigued by the company’s position as a “19th-century product for a 21st-century audience,” and drafted a plan that took this value and social media’s talk-back feature to improve customer interaction. She suggested a redesign of The Pennsylvania Ballet’s website to respond on all devices, including desktops, smartphones, and tablets, so customers could interact with the ballet by any means necessary.

“The main thing I look for (in the Temple Analytics Challenge) is to see if I can solve the problem, to really step into their shoes to see what they want,” Reffner said.

Reffner and 19 other finalists went before a panel of judges comprised of industry leaders, including representatives from Lockheed Martin, Campbell’s Soup Company, Deloitte Consulting and AmerisourceBergen. The judges were impressed with the overall dedication the students brought to the challenge.

Reffner, who received employment interest from two companies based upon her presentation, reflected positively on how the challenge opened up opportunities to students from all majors and schools.

“This competition is not focused toward any specific major,” Reffner said. “It’s people from all over the place that entered the competition. That’s why I love the Temple Analytics Challenge.”

Photo of presentationBeyond The Pennsylvania Ballet challenge, student participants had the choice of two others. The Merck challenge tasked students with synthesizing data to show how a vaccine will best benefit world health. QVC provided data relating to product placement in various markets and asked students to show how this data could predict where it should next focus its attention.

“Data alone is just information. It’s usage to inspire change or action and turning it into competitive intelligence is where the value lies, and the Temple Analytics Challenge did just that,” said Maurice Whetstone, QVC’s Director of Enterprise Data Management.

“Analytics in business, and especially in healthcare, is an amazing lever toward gaining unique insight to improve business performance,” said Bill Stolte, the Executive Director of Merck’s IT Business Performance Analytics. “It is an honor to be actively engaged in the Temple Analytics Challenge, and it is remarkable to watch Temple University students rapidly self-organize and use data and visualizations in innovative ways to solve complex problems.”

Organizers of Temple University's National Cyber Analyst Challenge include (from left) Laurel Miller, Director of Temple University's Institute for Business and Information Technology; John McGroary, Lockheed Martin's Project Engineer Principal, Engineering & Technical Capabilities, Information Systems & Global Solutions; Michael Bradshaw, Lockheed Martin's Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Mission Systems and Training; Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, Executive Director of Temple University's Institute for Business and Information Technology, Chair and Associate Professor of Management Information Systems department; and James P. Connelly, Lockheed Martin's Vice President of Corporate Information Security & Chief Information Security Officer.
Organizers of Temple University’s National Cyber Analyst Challenge include (from left) Laurel Miller, Director of Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology; John McGroary, Lockheed Martin’s Project Engineer Principal, Engineering & Technical Capabilities, Information Systems & Global Solutions; Michael Bradshaw, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Mission Systems and Training; Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, Executive Director of Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology, Chair and Associate Professor of Management Information Systems department; and James P. Connelly, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of Corporate Information Security & Chief Information Security Officer.
Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) are joining forces to help solve the cyber talent crisis that faces the country. This fall they will host a National Cyber Analyst Challenge designed to encourage and support the best students currently pursuing cyber related degrees in the top cyber programs in the nation.

Between seven and 10 schools with appropriate programs will select and field a team of top students (undergraduate or master’s studying information systems, computer science or engineering) to participate in the three-phase competition. First, each team will analyze and propose solutions to a cyber case. The second phase is a full day of virtual training. The finals, a real-time practical challenge, will be held in Washington, D.C. in October.

Each school that joins the contest will receive $15,000 to support students, faculty and travel. The winning team will be awarded up to $25,000.

The Cyber Analyst Challenge was created to respond to strong needs in the industry.

According to SimplyHired.com, in April 2015 there were 26,980 open cyber-security related positions. The need in these positions is less for operators and more for analysts. As threats multiply and diversify, intelligence analysis and identification is becoming critical, rather than secondary to the ability to configure or code secure servers. Yet, the job seekers in the talent pipeline find it difficult to integrate operational skills with strategic threat and cyber analysis.

“Our programs and our customers have a significant need for students to enter the workforce with not only the technical cyber skills but the analysis mindset that a competition like this will foster,” explained Chris Kearns, Lockheed Martin vice president of Enterprise IT Solutions. “We are thrilled to partner with our nation’s top universities to invest in the future workforce.”

The competition will not only enhance the skills of the future workforce and inspire students to pursue careers in cyber-security. Students will receive fast-paced, real world practical experience, scholarships, recognition and the opportunity to engage with others who share their interests, nationwide.

“This competition is unique because it focuses on student development from the start and will serve as a role model for how to develop talent by engaging with industry in systematic and sustained manner,” said Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, Associate Professor and Chair of the Fox School of Business’ Management Information Systems department, and IBIT Executive Director.

Fox School’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT), at Temple University, provides cutting-edge knowledge and valuable connections to sustain excellence in information technology. IBIT integrates industry perspectives with academic research expertise to create forums for generating and exchanging best practices.

IBIT is affiliated with the Fox School’s nationally ranked Department of Management Information Systems. IBIT draws participating faculty and students from MIS as well as the expertise of the entire Fox and Temple University community.

For more information please visit http://cyberanalystchallenge.org

About Lockheed Martin
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 112,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2014 were $45.6 billion.

Dr. Karl A. Morris, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Temple University’s College of Science and Technology, demonstrates Samsung Self, an application developed by Philadelphia high school students in Temple’s Urban Apps & Maps Studio.
Dr. Karl A. Morris, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Temple University’s College of Science and Technology, demonstrates Samsung Self, an application developed by Philadelphia high school students in Temple’s Urban Apps & Maps Studio.
Two Philadelphia high school students temporarily put their summer plans on hold for a unique afternoon activity: The students, from Temple University’s Urban Apps & Maps Studios, delivered a technology prototype presentation to a leading executive from Samsung.

Sharing conference-room space with Young-jun Kim, Senior Vice President of Design of Samsung Electronics and President of Samsung’s Art and Design Institute, the students unveiled Samsung Self, a platform they developed to incentivize youth to have an active lifestyle and reduce the health risks associated with obesity. Using an avatar that reflects the user’s current condition and activity level, a user’s every movement is tracked, including staircase climbing, walking, watching movies in front of a TV and listening to music. Self connects various aspects of a busy youth’s life that can affect their health through digital rewards that could be applied to music downloads, for example.

The students’ mission was to create a digital platform that would appeal to fitness junkies and novice exercisers, alike.

“A student’s life is very well-structured, and doesn’t leave much time for activities like exercise,” said Dr. Youngjin Yoo, the Harry A. Cochran Professor of Management Information Systems and the founder of Temple’s Apps & Maps Studio. “Self was designed with the student in mind. It’s a fully synchronous application that would cater to their busy schedules in order to maintain healthy lifestyles.”

Samsung, a project sponsor, had supplied Urban Apps & Maps students with the company’s smart phones and existing fitness wearables, so that they might provide research findings and feedback from one of the world’s most-coveted marketing demographics – teenagers. What the students found, in a thorough five-tiered research methodology, was that while high-school-age students were prone to using wearables, these devices had the most impact “on people who didn’t need them,” said Sylvia Lin, a senior at Philadelphia’s Central High School.

The group’s research rendered startling statistics, as well. More than 61 percent of the students they polled do not consider portion size, and fewer than 42 percent packed their lunches each school day. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released in 2013, more than 14 million American high school students are classified as obese.

That’s how the student group arrived at Self. Lin and Jeff Cook, a senior at George Washington Carver High School for Engineering & Science, detailed its features, primarily SSENERGY, which issues points for users’ healthy eating and exercise habits. SSENERGY points act as a currency in the system, for online purchases or downloads.

“We propose that motivation for fitness and exercise can be achieved through unorthodox methods,” Lin said during the presentation. “Teenagers are already using their phones to complete so many functions. An interface like Self is one way technology can curb the trend of teenage obesity.”

“Samsung is a global company and our products are available everywhere,” Kim said. “However, our products and services must reflect local culture and context. Working with high school students through Temple University gives us great insights that we cannot buy even if we hire the top design agencies”.

Added Yoo: “We see our area’s high school students as cultural researchers who are experts in tomorrow’s high tech culture.”

Lin and Cook developed Samsung Self with the assistance of a half-dozen high-school-age peers, as well as student and professor mentors from Temple, including: Yoo; Dr. Karl Morris, Professor of Computer Science at the College of Science and Technology; Tyler School of Art graduate Bill Pierce; Fox School of Business MBA student Vivienne Dobbs; and more.

Urban Apps & Maps Studio is Temple’s university-wide, interdisciplinary program geared toward the encouragement, development, and founding of start-ups to transform urban challenges into products and services.

Apps & Maps, which receives funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, offers hundreds of high school students from Philadelphia access to a six-week program, through which they learn digital design and business skills from Temple student and professor mentors. From that larger group, a few are handpicked to remain as year-round fellows.

Min Seok Pang

A researcher from Temple University’s Fox School of Business found that investments in information technology (IT) can reduce overall spending by state governments.

According to Dr. Min-Seok Pang, Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems, American state governments could stand to save $3.49 from their budgets for every $1 that’s invested in IT.

Pang’s paper, titled, “Do CIO IT budgets explain bigger or smaller governments? Theory and evidence from U.S. state governments,” was co-authored by Dr. Ali Tafti, of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Dr. M.S. Krishnan, of the University of Michigan. Their paper has been accepted for publication in top academic journal, Management Science. A related study by Pang has been published by MIS Quarterly.

Pang and his fellow researchers analyzed the IT budgets of chief information officers from each of the 50 states, during a five-year period from 2001 to 2005. Pang said he and his team chose to analyze the spending patterns of state governments, as opposed to those of federal governments, because state governments spend on similar services, like education, police, recreation, finance, human resources, and facility management.

“One could argue that because government has no comparative motive, meaning state governments are not competing with one another, there’s no imperative need for survival and, therefore, no value in making IT investments,” Pang said. “But my research shows that is not the case. In fact, IT has demonstrated that it can generate value.”

IT has the potential to make a state government’s processes more efficient and transparent, thus leading to a reduction in spending, Pang said. The digitizing of traditionally paper-based processes, for example, could help a state government trim its manpower and waste production, he theorized. A state government also could elect to disseminate data or publish its annual budget through digital mediums, he said, creating a level of transparency that would prevent a government from spending too much.

Overall, Pang said, the implementation of IT by a state government would free up additional resources that can be best applied to areas like police, education, human resource and more.

“In the government sector, the use of IT would lead to improved transparency and, in the long run, would help governments refrain from wasteful spending,” Pang said.

Pang’s research study is believed to be one of the first of its kind, in examining the benefits of IT spending by state governments.

Photo of  Attendees listen to Google Chief Economist Hal Varian, one of many premier panelists at the Fox School’s Privacy in an Era of Big Data Workshop.
Attendees listen to Google Chief Economist Hal Varian, one of many premier panelists at the Fox School’s Privacy in an Era of Big Data Workshop.

Google “big data,” and the first search result returns the word, “dangerous.”

The irony of using a big data factory to discover the risks of its own data was not lost on researchers and experts attending the Privacy in an Era of Big Data workshop, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and hosted by the Fox School of Business and Temple University’s Big Data Institute.

“Big data” is loosely defined as the collection and analysis of large data sets of complex information. As the scope of collected data increases, there is a significant need for advanced analytic techniques and the development of new methods of investigation. Temple’s Big Data Institute was established to harness the full potential of big data and enable further research on the subject with an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together seven related research centers across the university and the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Co-founder of the Institute Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, Chief Research Officer and Associate Dean of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives, along with Dr. Sunil Wattal, Director of the Center on Web and Social Media Analytics and Associate Professor of Management Information Systems, were awarded a grant from the NSF to further their investigation into unexplored links between big data and privacy.

“This is a topic that’s on everyone’s minds, and we’re here to get some useful insight on it,” Wattal said.

The workshop, held April 22-23, was a part of a weeklong event to encourage big data research from industry, government, and academia on the future of big data and privacy. The goal of the workshop, Pavlou said, was “to create a forward-looking research agenda into the future of big data.”

A priority for attendees was establishing the balance of big data with privacy rights, in order to improve national security and further develop consumer marketing. Dr. Thomas Page, Technical Director for Core Infrastructure & Cloud Repositories at the National Security Agency, represented the government perspective on big data, with a keynote presentation.

“There’s a moral responsibility in this space. We’re doing this on behalf of the American people,” Page said.

Page called for a new focus when discussing big data. “Big Smart Data,” he said, avoids unnecessary or intrusive information from reaching analysts, and allows new public policy to be enacted that balances personal privacy and national security concerns.

Page’s keynote address raised concerns of a “zero sum game,” wherein consumers trade privacy for national security. Christina Peters, Chief Privacy Officer at IBM, noted that she believes the two are not equivalent. Citing instances of security breaches at Target and Home Depot, she indicated how a history of misuse or neglect has risked consumer information.

Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google, discussed the trust contract held between consumers and big data collectors. He argued that big data factories have the most to lose. “Search engines have a lot more to lose than a human. When computers screw up they screw up big,” Varian said.

Google’s top search results for “how do I know” are: “if I’m pregnant,” “if I’m gay,” and “if I have AIDS,” all of which, Varian said, demonstrate Google’s desire to not only share a vast amount of information, but to also take seriously its responsibility as an online confidante.

“Search engines are the biggest privacy enhancers in the world. People won’t ask these questions to their lawyer, doctor, parents, or priest. This is the first time you can get this type of answer from a non-human,” said Varian, who also served as the featured keynote speaker at the Frederic Fox Lecture Series April 23, another event during Big Data Week.

Varian explained that the intended use of big data is to educate consumers on the difference between privacy and security. Since privacy is the restricted use of personal information, a responsibility of big data should be to protect the security of the data and manage the risks associated with personal data analytics.

A closing comment from the first day of the workshop was the idea that “big data is the new bacon,” as presented by Lael Bellamy, Chief Privacy Officer at The Weather Channel. Her support of improved data collection and consumer intelligence reinforced the notion that although big data is trending, it’s been around for a long time.

“It’s possible everyone can benefit from the Big Data revolution,” said Carnegie Mellon University professor Dr. Rahul Telang.

Admittedly, Cassandra Reffner said she does not have as great of an understanding of mathematical analytics as business-school students. And she said she only understands the most basic functions of Microsoft Excel.

Fox School Management Information Systems professors James Moustafellos, far left, and David Schuff, far right, recognize Tyler School of Art student Cassandra Reffner as the winner of the 2014 Temple Analytics Challenge. Third from left is Doug Seiwert, Vice President of Information Technology at QVC, who served as the event’s keynote speaker.
Fox School Management Information Systems professors James Moustafellos, far left, and David Schuff, far right, recognize Tyler School of Art student Cassandra Reffner as the winner of the 2014 Temple Analytics Challenge. Third from left is Doug Seiwert, Vice President of Information Technology at QVC, who served as the event’s keynote speaker.

What Reffner does know, however, is how to analyze data and display it in a creative, understandable manner. A junior graphic design student from the Tyler School of Art, Reffner won the $2,500 grand prize at the second annual Temple Analytics Challenge.

The month-long competition, organized by the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) at the Fox School of Business, culminated Nov. 17 in finalist presentations at Alter Hall. The challenge tasks students from all of Temple University’s schools and colleges with making sense of data through visualizations and infographics.

The Temple Analytics Challenge awarded 10 prizes totaling $10,000, from corporate members of IBIT and the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at Temple University.

In its second year, the Temple Analytics Challenge received 130 submissions from more than 300 participants. The finalists came from both undergraduate and graduate programs across the University, including the College of Engineering, the Tyler School of Art, and the Fox School of Business.

Reffner used a test tube illustration to demonstrate the residual impact felt by employees following the proposed relocation of Merck’s corporate headquarters. Judges reflected favorably upon Reffner’s infographic, which displayed the raw number of employees whose commutes would be negatively affected by 30 or more minutes. (Other Merck Challenge finalists opted to use percentages.) To circumvent the issue, Reffner offered what she called “prescriptions,” using a medicine-bottle design to provide Merck with alternatives like incentivizing carpools or public transit usage, or implementing break time for employees who make longer commutes.

“I think the judges liked how I gave solutions, or as I called them ‘prescriptions,’ to help benefit those employees and to look at this in a less-negative term,” Reffner said. “

Corporate partners of the Temple Analytics Challenge provided data sets and specific problems from which the students had to create an original visualization that also provided clear and meaningful insight. The NBCUniversal Challenge pertained to the allocation of advertising dollars for midterm elections; the Lockheed Martin Challenge focused on employee behaviors predicting security threats; and the aforementioned Merck Challenge centered around the overall impact of a corporate site’s relocation. The 20 finalists presented their work before a panel of professional judges, including representatives from QVC, Campbell Soup Company, and RJMetrics.

“The breadth of majors and students that excelled in the competition was really impressive. Analytics and the ability to interpret and visualize complex data is such an important skill, it’s exciting to so many students get involved and the final presentations were outstanding,” said Nicholas Piergallini, Program Manager at Lockheed Martin and a judge for the competition.

“We’re proud to once again see such a great set of entries from students across the University,” said Dr. David Schuff, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems and organizer of the challenge, “A key goal of the challenge is to encourage students from different disciplines to build their data analysis and communication skills, and to see how these skills apply to their careers.”

Reffner and five fellow Tyler students were among the competition’s 20 finalists, and she was one of three from Tyler to win one of the Temple Analytics Challenge’s 10 cash prizes. Encouraged to enter the competition by Tyler professor Abby Guido, Reffner said she hopes her grand-prize win helps push other students at Temple University to compete next year.

“Being a graphic design student, it was difficult to figure out what the data was and what we had to look at, what we had to analyze, and how to design it in a way people would understand,” Reffner said. “Most of my class doesn’t know Excel.

“But the Temple Analytics Challenge was an innovative way to bring students from around campus together and show we can translate what we do know to a broader spectrum. It was that multidisciplinary aspect of the competition that, I think, was the most fun.”

Doug Seiwert echoed Reffner’s point. Seiwert, the Vice President of Information Technology and Enterprise Applications Development at QVC, said the popular home-shopping network produces one terabyte of data every month.

“For those of you who don’t know, that’s a lot of data,” said Seiwert, the event’s keynote speaker, “and it can be daunting when you’re processing this much data. Our challenge, and (the students’) challenge in this competition, was finding ways to make the data widely consumable, and I think you all did an outstanding job.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Temple University’s Fox School of Business with a $50,000 grant, with which the School will fund a workshop workshop is to bring together experts in the domain of big data and privacy to develop a research agenda for better understanding and promoting privacy in an era of big data. The “Privacy in an Era of Big Data Workshop”(please link to fox.temple.edy/nsfworkshop) will take place at the university on April 22 and 23 of this year. Government officials, industry leaders, and notable academics will meet to discuss privacy issues surrounding big data, and to develop a forward-looking agenda for research on the legal, technological, social, behavioral, economic, and broader implications of Big Data and Privacy in academia, industry, and government.

Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, the Milton F. Stauffer Professor, as Principal Investigator, and Associate Professor of Management Information Systems Dr. Sunil Wattal, as Co-Principal Investigator, received the NSF grant. The objective of the NSF workshop is to demonstrate the merits in the pursuit of the potential for big data while respecting privacy rights.

In the proposal, Pavlou and Wattal argued that there are “unexplored links” between big data and privacy, and that the potential exists for breaches of privacy, particularly by corporations, malicious individuals or governments. The workshop, Pavlou and Wattal said, would unite individuals from multiple disciplines in an attempt to promote a “forward-looking agenda.”

“People often have very little control over the collection process, in terms of knowledge about what information is being collected and stored about them,” said Pavlou, a Co-Director of Temple’s Big Data Institute and the School’s Chief Research Officer. “They also are unaware of who has access to the information, and for what purpose the information will be used.

“Finding solutions to these big day and privacy problems must become a priority for this generation of interdisciplinary research.”

The NSF workshop will cover: the tradeoff between the benefits of big data and privacy protection; the legal, public policy and regulatory issues on privacy; privacy protection technologies; and social, behavioral and economical approaches to encouraging individual privacy practice.

Slated to take place in late Spring 2015, the workshop will be open to all centers that operate in conjunction with Temple’s Big Data Institute. Additionally, select global big-data experts from academia, industry, and government will be invited to attend. A date for the workshop has not yet been finalized.