The Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) prepares students for the challenging task of deriving insights from vast quantities of structured and unstructured data. At the core of the MSA curriculum is the Practicum: a team-based learning experience that gives students the opportunity to conduct real-world analytics projects using data from sponsoring organizations. Students work in teams of 4-5 members each to understand the business problem, and then clean and analyze the data. The Practicum spans eight months and culminates with a report and presentation to the sponsor. The teams perform their work under confidentiality agreements and the results are the sole property of the respective sponsors. There is no sponsorship fee. Past projects now total 87 in number with over 60 sponsors spanning virtually every industry segment—aerospace, agriculture, apparel, banking and financial services, chemicals, computers, consulting, consumer products, e-commerce, energy, government, healthcare, heavy machinery, insurance, lodging, marketing and advertising, pharmaceuticals, professional sports, publishing, retail, telecommunications, and transportation—and include some of the world’s leading organizations and best known brands.
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
The Institute seeks organizations that are interested in sponsoring a team project for the coming academic year. The sponsor will identify a challenging business problem and provide data for the team to analyze. Below are guidelines for organizations that wish to submit a proposal.
The proposal consists of three components: (1) a concise description of the problem to be addressed and the goal of the project; (2) the nature and size of the data set to be analyzed; and (3) the names of the key contacts within the sponsoring organizations.
MSA students are equipped with a variety of skills and professional experience. Each team will have skills in statistics, data cleaning, data modeling and visualization, computer programming, and with using industry-standard analytical software tools, such as SAS. Students also receive instruction in teamwork, project management and communication skills.
Students are assigned to teams based on their skills, experience, and compatibility, to achieve the necessary balance given the needs of the project. The team leader is appointed by the Institute. The team members assign specific roles for themselves.
Projects are selected based on the proposal’s fit with the overall educational goals of the MSA program. It is helpful, but not required, for organizations to have experience working with universities and specifically with sponsoring student projects. Some of the criteria used to select projects include:
- Educational value
- Likelihood of success
- Level of challenge and complexity
- Clarity of project goals
- Sponsor motivation and commitment
- Kind and amount of data
- Accessibility to specialized software tools, if needed
The number of projects we can conduct is currently limited to sixteen. We aim to select a variety of projects each year. A viable proposal not selected for a student team in the current round can be placed in a queue for future assignment.
Confidentiality is a key element of how the projects are conducted. Unlike a master’s thesis, which is published, the Practicum does not have a public disclosure requirement. Only members of the team have access to their sponsor’s data. Sponsors do not under any circumstance provide personally identifiable information, and will only share data in a manner that is consistent with their third-party data transfer rules.
Students receive instruction in data privacy and security, and the law with respect to non-disclosure agreements. Because students are not employees of the university, they must individually consent to the sponsor’s NDA before being assigned to a project.
Each sponsor is required to:
- provide the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to be signed by student team;
- securely transfer the promised data to the team on the specified timetable;
- assign a liaison, who will be the team’s primary point of contact to resolve various issues as they may arise;
- provide technical and strategic guidance, as needed, to ensure the project remains on the desired course;
- host the team for the kick-off and/or final presentation on-site, if possible.
The sponsor is not expected to provide ongoing project management and oversight—this is done by the Institute.
There is no fee charged to sponsor a Practicum project. However, we recognize there is a cost involved to participate in terms of the time and effort required by individuals sponsoring a project.
We would be grateful to the sponsor for deferring all or part of the expense, if any, to have the student team travel to the sponsor location for the kick-off meeting and/or final presentation.
Proposals are submitted online and accepted throughout the year. The Institute is always ready to begin a dialogue with a prospective sponsor. There are two formal reviews with submission deadlines of March 1 and July 1. Once a proposal receives the green light, it’s place in the queue for the next round of project kick-offs (September 1 of each year). Proposals submitted early in the annual cycle have the best chance of acceptance. An organization may submit more than one proposal.
- First round proposal review: March 1
- Second round proposal review: July 1
- Sponsors for current year selected by August 1
- All arrangements including NDA and secure data transfer completed by: September 1
- Project kick-off meetings held between September 15-30
- Midpoint review meeting by December 1
- Final presentation to sponsor held in end of April
For more information about becoming a Practicum project sponsor, please feel welcome to contact Dr. Christopher West, the Institute’s practicum manager. We will be glad to work with you in formulating your proposal.
- 20 sponsors will be announced in September
- Allscripts (Chicago, IL)
- AT&T (Dallas, TX)
- Baltimore Ravens (Baltimore, MD)
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)
- CA (Raleigh, NC)
- Carlson Marketing Worldwide (Minneapolis, MN)
- Caterpillar (Peoria, IL)
- Central Intelligence Agency (McLean, VA)
- Cigna (Bloomfield, CT)
- Cisco Systems (San Jose, CA)
- Citrix Sharefile (Raleigh, NC)
- Constellation Energy (Baltimore, MD)
- CrescoAG Corporation (Memphis, TN)
- Deere & Company (Moline, IL)
- Deluxe Corporation (Minneapolis, MN)
- Detica (Washington, DC)
- Dex One (Cary, NC)
- Dude Solutions (Cary, NC)
- Eastman Chemical (Kingsport, TN)
- eBay (San Jose, CA)
- Elder Research (Charlottesville, VA)
- Estée Lauder Companies (New York, NY)
- Federal Communications Commission (Washington, DC)
- GE Energy (Atlanta, GA)
- GlaxoSmithKline (Research Triangle Park, NC)
- Global Knowledge (Cary, NC)
- Hallmark (Kansas City, MO)
- Hanesbrands (Winston-Salem, NC)
- Houston Astros (Houston, TX)
- IBM (Armonk, NY)
- Inmar (Winston-Salem, NC)
- International AG Insurance Solutions (Des Moines, IA)
- Jacksonville Jaquars (Jacksonville, FL)
- Laboratory Corporation of America (Greensboro, NC)
- Liberty Mutual Insurance (Boston. MA)
- Lowe’s Home Improvement (Mooresville, NC)
- Lulu Enterprises (Raleigh, NC)
- M&T Bank (Buffalo, NY)
- Marriott International (Bethesda, MD)
- MetLife (New York, NY)
- Monsanto (St. Louis, MO)
- NetJets (Columbus, OH)
- North Carolina Department of State Treasurer (Raleigh, NC)
- Quaero (Charlotte, NC)
- Premier (Charlotte, NC)
- Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati, OH)
- Railinc (Cary, NC)
- Raytheon Company (Waltham, MA)
- Recall (Norcross, GA)
- Rex/UNC Healthcare (Raleigh, NC)
- RTI International (Research Triangle Park, NC)
- Sensus (Raleigh, NC)
- Siemens Healthcare (Cary, NC)
- Tekelec (Morrisville, NC)
- The Daniel Group (Charlotte, NC)
- The J. M. Smucker Company (Orrville, OH)
- Travelocity (Southlake, TX)
- Trident Marketing (Charlotte, NC)
- United Airlines (Chicago, IL)
- U.S. Postal Service (Washington, DC)
- Volvo Trucks NA (Greensboro, NC)
- Wachovia Bank (Charlotte, NC)
- Zencos Consulting (Durham, NC)