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Design Lab helps students choose their own data-driven path

Graduate | Jul 18, 2017 |

MS in Business Analytics students working in the Design Lab.

While working in customer experience at a telecommunications company in the Philippines, Francisco Gabriel Mendoza, MSBA ’17, realized there might be a more efficient way to get the job done.

He was tasked with mapping out customer journeys, designing “paths” a customer may take to reach a certain end goal. The process was driven by assumptions about customers, Mendoza says, and his company didn’t have a way to measure the accuracy of the assumptions.

What would it be like,” he wondered, “if we had a system that would read all this data … and adjust the ideal customer journey to that?

When he started the Master of Science in Business Analytics program at the Gabelli School and learned about the Design Lab, he found he could potentially explore the answer to this question.

The Design Lab, now in its fourth year, is a research hub connecting Fordham students and faculty with New York City startups, entrepreneurs, corporations, government agencies, and members of the scientific and technological communities.

In short, says W. “RP” Raghupathi, Gabelli School professor and the lab’s founder, it’s a “way to provide experience to students while they’re at school.”

For Mendoza, connecting with the Design Lab allowed him to find experts who could point to additional resources and give guidance on his process.

Another student, Liyi Li, MSBA ’17, adds that the Design Lab is “a great place to show your thoughts and to practice, and to use [data] in a real project.”

Her project focuses on pharmaceutical patent law. Analyzing cases from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Li uses text analytics and machine learning to extract key information which could eventually help pharmaceutical companies litigate or settle decisions regarding patent cases.

In addition to individual projects, the Design Lab also provides the opportunity to participate in larger-scale projects with outside organizations.

This past year, more than 35 students worked with the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology, using data analysis tools on topics of global importance, including cybersecurity and sustainable development.

Making an impact close to home, 14 students worked with the Town+Gown program, resident at the New York City Department of Design and Construction. Student participants meet with client agencies and develop data-analysis techniques for real issues such as infrastructure and public-building spending, capital efficiency, and the lifespan of New York City trees.

Terri Matthews, director of Town+Gown, says it “provides the framework to look at the bigger picture.”

Being able to get close to the details that impact the bigger picture is what attracts students like Mendoza to the Design Lab. His customer journey project is still in the early stages, but that’s why he finds the experience so exciting.

“I was able to see how much more this idea can be pushed,” he explains. “I would encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and try to follow an idea that’s been bothering them,” he adds.

For students looking to create change in the world, that’s a key step on the path.

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