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Chaifetz School Students Get Hands-On Experience in Data Analytics Practicum

The Chaifetz School's unique One-Year MBA (OYMBA) program includes a business analytics practicum integrated into the curriculum that gives students real-world experience applying the data analytics skills they've learned in the program to a real-world consulting project. In 2021, the Chaifetz School partnered with the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation for one practicum project to help the foundation understand how visitors interact with exhibits in its Conservation and Education Center. 

Savannah Nichols at the St. Louis Aquarium

Current One-Year MBA student Savannah Nichols checks an interactive display at the St. Louis Aquarium as part of her business analytics practicum. 

Student data analytics projects typically bring to mind spreadsheet analysis. But a business analytics project with the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation is different. A key component of the One-Year MBA (OYMBA) program at Chaifetz School of Business is a semester-long data analytics practicum project. Through the projects, MBA students perform data analysis to solve the real business problems of St. Louis-based organizations.

In one such project for the OYMBA class of 2021, the Chaifetz School partnered with the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation to understand how visitors interact with the exhibits in the Conservation and Education Center (CEC) and what they learn (or don’t learn) from a visit to the CEC.

“This partnership with the Chaifetz School of Business is a great opportunity for us to analyze our water stewardship-themed exhibits and use the feedback to help us determine how to augment and improve the experience for our guests,” says Diane Bauhof, executive director of the St. Louis Aquarium Foundation.

Instead of analyzing datasets, MBA students analyze the video footage of visitors spending time in front of the exhibits and examine the audio transcripts of visitors discussing their experiences. The students use text mining techniques to analyze the audio transcripts and use statistical tools, in R programming language, to analyze the video recordings.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn how to analyze and get insights from data beyond spreadsheets. The insights will be very valuable for CEC,” says Palash Bera, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Operations and IT Management. Dr. Bera supervises this practicum project.

OYMBA students have been enthusiastic about the hands-on experience the practicum with the St. Louis Aquarium has provided.

“Partnering with the St. Louis Aquarium and CEC for my practicum experience has provided me the opportunity to utilize classroom knowledge to improve the work environment and client experience,” says Savannah Nichols, current OYMBA student. “I’m grateful to have support from the OYMBA cohort, Chaifetz professors, and Aquarium staff to successfully deliver real solutions to data-intensive problems.”