The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: April 2016

Brandeis GPS students play key role in a new statewide data initiative

By Stephen Gentile

With a vast network of start-ups and a haven of biotech and pharma companies, and dozens of institutions of higher learning it is no secret that Massachusetts is one of the most tech-advanced states in the country. According to Gov. Charlie Baker, we now must leverage the state’s technology and economic progress and increase its competitiveness.

Brandeis GPS is partnering with the Massachusetts High Technology Council (MHTC) in support of this cause. A coalition of pro-growth advocates is developing and launching a unique online resource that measures how the state ranks nationally among other states.

Why MATTERS matters

The new system, MATTERSTM (Massachusetts’ Technology, Talent, and Economic Reporting System), was developed by students and faculty from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), with assistance and guidance from an Advisory Board formed by MHTC. MATTERS creates profiles of each of the 50 states based on key parameters related to talent, tax, business climate and quality of life. It then compiles national rankings data and dozens of cost, economic and talent metrics to see how Massachusetts ranks in comparison to other states.

The data MATTERS generates helps Massachusetts private and public sectors identify and drive legislation that maximizes the state’s strengths (source).

MA state profile. Source: http://matters.mhtc.org

MATTERS MA state profile (source: http://matters.mhtc.org)

How Brandeis GPS fits in

In January 2016, as program chair of the Strategic Analytics program, I led a team of GPS students in a project to research, cleanse, and load MATTERS data. Each academic term, we will continue this process by building a MATTERS team, selecting participating students based on their previous academic performance in the program, professional experience, and leadership abilities. The GPS data curators conduct meetings with MHTC, WPI, and other stakeholders; define a scope of work for the course, and culminate their work on the project with a final proposal that outlines next steps and possible deliverables for the next GPS research team. The MATTERS team reviews and approves each proposal before the next term begins.

The inaugural GPS team spearheaded the following milestones:

  • Evaluating and taking inventory of all data sources
  • Compiling and transmitting updated data from all relevant sources; the WPI team used this data to test MATTERS version 2.0, which MHTC announced this spring.
  • Creating and documenting the methodology to maintain MATTERS data, including on-going processes, workflow among stakeholders, and data update schedules

Looking ahead

Our work has been essential in establishing processes and procedures that ensure MATTERS is working with high-quality data, but there is still much to do. Data curation goes beyond organizing and cleansing data — it can also set up a construct for the broader user community to access quality data in a reproducible manner, which guarantees its usefulness for future research. Additionally, data curation will facilitate a better collaboration between organizations as the source data will be improved “on the edge” before it enters the MATTERS clearinghouse.

Detailed plans for the summer 2016 MATTERS course are now underway, as we look to re-evaluate all data sources, document our methodology, and enhance the workflows and collaboration with WPI and the MHTC teams.

Stephen Gentile serves as Director, Project Management Office at Babson Capital Management LLC. He is also the chair of the Strategic Analytics program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies and teachers courses in their Strategic Analytics and Project and Program Management programs.

#WhatsYourWhy Wednesday with Patrick McGraw

We know that pursuing a master’s degree can be overwhelming, particularly for students who work full-time and are already balancing professional and personal commitments. We also know that every student has a unique reason that drives him or her to return to school and complete their degree.

Last fall, we held a scholarship competition and asked our students to tell us their story — their why — behind their decision to enroll in a graduate program. This series will profile our scholarship winners.

Read previous #WhatsYourWhy Wednesday posts here and here.

 

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Fishing

Graduate Professional Studies: I’m here with Patrick McGraw, a student in our Master of Science in Strategic Analytics program. Congratulations on winning our first “What’s Your Why” scholarship! Tell us where you’re from.

Patrick McGraw: Hi, I’m Patrick McGraw, and I live in Bergen County, New Jersey.

GPS: How many courses have you taken with GPS so far?

PM: I’m currently on my third course with GPS.

GPS: Great! Tell me more about what you do for work.

PM: I am a senior vice president and general manager at Ipsos MMA.  We are a marketing effectiveness consultancy firm based in New York with offices in Norwalk, CT and Chicago. We are also opening international offices in London.

GPS:  What was the main driver in helping you decide to go back to school to get your graduate degree?

PM: The main driver has always been a focus on continuous learning and development, and this is something that leaders I’ve worked with throughout my career have been big champions of. But another big thing is that my industry is at a point of change from a marketing standpoint — there have been huge shifts from traditional marketing tools and tactics into digital marketing and the realms of social media.

Ultimately, I decided it was time to refresh my industry experience  with the latest academic perspectives so that I could continue to drive value for my clients and for my company, and to most effectively coach and develop the people who work with me and for me.

GPS: What made you choose GPS over some other programs that you considered?

PM:  I felt that Brandeis has a nice mix of focus on leadership and the application and integration of the work into a business environment. This is my second master’s, so I was looking for an integrative approach that teaches you to elevate the application in addition to updating the technique.

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GPS: You’ve already touched on this a bit, but is there anything else you hope to gain professionally once you complete the program?

PM: My goal is to be an effective business partner for the clients we serve and to be able to bring the most updated, wide-range perspective and thinking to my work. I want to make sure I’m being the most able coach and developer in the organization that I lead. There is also an underlying personal satisfaction. I love to learn and extend what I’m thinking about in my work every day. GPS really drives you and forces you to do that as part of the process.

GPS: What do you think it takes to be successful at completing a program like this?

PM: You have to have the motivation to do it, and you have to be disciplined about setting aside a good block of time during
the week to do work, whether that is a weekend morning or “on the fly.”

GPS: Can you think of an example where you have been able to directly apply your coursework to what you do at your job?

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with family

PM: Yes, there are a range of applications that come up in this job that really make me think about applying what I’ve learned in my courses. This includes taking the business intelligence perspective I gained through my first course to polishing up on my statistics last summer to even my most recent leadership class. These applications have given me the opportunity to rethink my role in my
organization, and how to coach and develop the team that I lead and the colleagues I work with every day.

GPS: What do you like to do outside of the class and the office?

PM: I focus my extra time on my family. I have a wife and three children, and it’s important that we carve out time for each other. I enjoy spending my free time being adventurous.  My son and I go on a rafting and rock-climbing trip every summer. I also like to fish with my brother and father. I do a lot of outdoor activities to balance out all the desk time.

For more information on the Strategic Analytics program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

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