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 70 in number with over 50 sponsors spanning virtually every industry segment—aerospace, agriculture, airlines, 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 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. An organization may submit more than one proposal.
- Open call for proposals begins May 5
- Proposal submission deadline (including NDA): July 15
- Proposal finalists announced: August 15 (updated)
- All arrangements including secure data transfer completed by: August 31
- Project kick-off meeting begin: September 15
- Midpoint review meeting by: December 15
- Final presentation to sponsor: April 26-30
- To be announced
- Allscripts (Chicago, IL)
- 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)
- Cisco Systems (San Jose, CA)
- Citrix Sharefile (Raleigh, NC)
- Constellation Energy (Baltimore, MD)
- 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)
- 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)
- Laboratory Corporation of America (Greensboro, NC)
- Lowe’s Home Improvement (Mooresville, NC)
- Lulu Enterprises (Raleigh, NC)
- M&T Bank (Buffalo, NY)
- Marriott International (Bethesda, MD)
- Monsanto (St. Louis, MO)
- NetJets (Columbus, OH)
- North Carolina Department of State Treasurer (Raleigh, NC)
- Quaero/CGS Solutions (Charlotte, NC)
- Premier (Charlotte, NC)
- Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati, OH)
- Railinc (Cary, NC)
- Recall (Norcross, GA)
- Rex/UNC Healthcare (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)
- United States Postal Service (Washington, DC)
- Volvo Trucks NA (Greensboro, NC)
- Wachovia Bank (Charlotte, NC)
- Zencos Consulting (Durham, NC)
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.