Brandeis GPS Blog

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

Author: mtswanson (page 1 of 3)

Faculty Spotlight: Annie Shebanow

What led you to the business and technology fields? Growing up, I loved science technology, and I was fascinated by computers. After finishing high school in Iran, I immigrated to the United States to attend U.C. Berkeley’s Computer Science program. I wanted to be at the forefront of inventing new technologies that could help every person and connect them together like never before. 

After I graduated college, I worked for different Silicon Valley tech companies. As my career progressed, I wanted to do something beyond working for large companies. I wanted to focus on specific areas that I was deeply passionate about, one being agriculture. 

Over time, I started multiple companies, each using some form of computer technology and software to solve problems. Each endeavor was as exciting as the one before it. It wasn’t long before I realized that I loved entrepreneurship. I loved that I could blend my love for business and technology together and see it succeed. 

My hope is others can fall in love with the two like I have. It’s really something else!

What industry trend is currently exciting you? I’m immensely excited by the space industry. We are seeing a space race amongst private companies all the while countries like the United States and China are working to send people back to the moon. NASA’s James Webb Telescope left me in awe by how far it could peer into the cosmos, and I remain on the edge of my seat by what it could potentially discover about life on other planets. I cannot wait for what is to come in space discovery over the next two decades. 

What are your best hopes for Strategic Analytics students who take your courses? My hope is that all my students leave my class wanting to be lifelong learners in this field. Strategic analytics is such an exciting journey. We can sift through enormous amounts of data and information in ways that can solve the world’s biggest problems. This is a lifelong exploration that you can never stop learning from, and my hope is my class helps in this adventure.

What is a fun fact that the Brandeis GPS community may not know about you? Hmm… a couple fun facts: 

  • I love Ted Talk videos! My YouTube suggestions are filled with various talks and I often find myself watching multiple videos a week.
  • My first name is Anna but somewhere somehow in my legal documents it got switched to Annie. Someday it will switch back.
  • I’ve grown deeply passionate about global warming issues and its impact on agriculture. I’m now exploring ways data analytics can help coffee bean research and production!
  • I have a small cat that frequently interrupts my Zoom calls.

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

Raising the Tide through the NOVA INITIATIVE

We are living in interesting times where it is the individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, and not countries, that are reaching for the stars. When new technologies like cell phones are taking a few years to adopt when compared with multiple decades for telephones in prior times. These historically improbable events are happening because of the perfect storm due to our deeper understanding of manipulating life using CRISPR, fashioning of nano machines, exploitation of globally connected data capture, use of cloud based deep learning, to name a few. While all this progress is exciting, it is increasing the disparity between those who have the capabilities and those who don’t. The impact can be seen in the growing economic backwater in middle America when compared with the coasts, where most of the investments and innovation is happening. This is also true of most developing countries that are unable to get on to the technology adoption curve.

At the same time another major shift has occurred that creates room for hope. For the first time in the history of mankind we can now access the raw material, talent and resources needed to create new products. With global supply chains and marketing channels, anyone connected through the internet can develop, market, deliver and support their products and services. The ability to harness the global market brings the economy of scale as well a bigger variation in price point and features.

Navigating through the myriad aspects of a globally competitive new product development is a complex endeavor. Large companies educate their employees through a large number of special courses, internships and external programs. These learning facilities are not available to the vast majority of people not having access to such nurturing eco-systems. Based on first hand experience of leading development across continents for industry, I am convinced that this lack of education in the “Practice of Engineering” is what is holding many of the less developed regions back from being able to participate in the global economy. Some of this practice of engineering is formally being taught in a peripheral sense in an MBA and a myriad of specialized courses in marketing, supply chain, project management etc.

In response, I founded the Nova Initiative which aims to provide structured education focused on teaching how to approach the complex task of developing and executing all the different phases of developing a globally competitive new product. The hope is that this will allow regions, people and companies all across the planet, create value and ensure a lack of extreme disparity.

Written by: Imran Khan, Faculty Robotic Software Engineering

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

The Symbiotic Relationship of Course Analytics with Evidence-based Design

Evidence-based assessment design (ECD) provides a conceptual framework for identifying observable evidence that supports the measurement of unobservable constructs, defined as as knowledge, skills and attributes by Mislay and his colleagues in their 2004 article A Brief Introduction to Evidence-Centered Design. Course analytics is micro-level learning analytics that validates the assessment outcomes and elicit desirable behaviors via harnessing learning data. 

In the original ECD framework formalized by Mislay and colleagues (2003), the initial phase is to define what to measure in terms of KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Attributes). Since the KSA cannot be observed directly, we need to come up with the measurable, which can constitute evidence about KSA variables. The next step is to identify tasks or situations that can elicit observable evidence about latent KSAs. In some cases, attributes are referred to as ‘psychological constructs.’ The noncognitive factors, such as engagement and perseverance, are often considered as strong predictors of academic outcomes.

Although the fundamental ideas of ECD framework remain solid, the current digital revolution has changed the content of each model within the framework, which introduced new possibilities of what evidence we are able to observe, what data we are able to track, how we are able to mine the data (EDM) and make inferences of it (LA).

Here is an example of demonstrating the conceptual linkages between observable evidence and inferences in the rapidly-evolved digital world.

The data used was fabricated from group communications, which consists of directional weighted links that represent a direct message from one to another, message to the entire group and length of a reply. The tasks are composed of reflective writing and knowledge sharing. The task model elicits the evidence from individuals in response to given prompts about their understanding of topics. The technologies support us to harvest and harness the evidence, which otherwise, could not be fulfilled. Temporal networks are network representations that flow over time. In educational settings, they are useful for visualizing how a learning community develops or evolves through time. The time indices are an ordered sequence. This ordering can reveal information about what is occurring in the network through time. Below is an animated temporal network diagram, I generated in R using the fabricated data, that shows the dynamic of interactions over several weeks. Each node represents an individual, the links denote sending a message from one to another or addressing to the entire group, the color corresponds to the sender.

Written by: Jing Qi, Ed.D., Faculty Learning Experience Design

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

Alumni Spotlight: Gaston Tchicourel

Program: Digital Innovation for FinTech

Graduation Year: 2020

Current Position: Information Technology Advisor at World Bank Group

Gastón came into the Digital Innovation for FinTech degree program with a strong background in both software development and technology consulting and management.

Q: What were your most valuable takeaways from the Digital Innovation for FinTech degree?
A: There were many reasons for why I enrolled in the Digital Innovation for FinTech degree program; however, I would say the main reason was to keep myself up-to-date with the current trends in the business. I have spent the majority of my professional career working on the technology side of the banking and financial services industries, so this program was an obvious choice toward that goal. And it definitely served that purpose. Not only did the degree serve as a refresher of both financial and technical concepts, but it also covered many other topics that span from regulatory frameworks to the future of finance.

Q: What was your favorite course from the Digital Innovation for FinTech degree?
A: There were many interesting courses throughout the program. It is difficult to choose just one so I will highlight a few favorites:

RDFT 130: Launching FinTech Ventures
In this course we covered and analyzed some of the best and most prominent business cases and success stories in the FinTech field. This is key knowledge for anyone looking to become an entrepreneur.

RDFT 160: Python Programming
As a software developer turned technology consultant and manager, taking this course felt like a break in my routine, like being a kid playing with Legos again! I can acknowledge that this is not the same for everyone.

Q: Do you have any advice for students currently working toward completing the FinTech degree?
A: Having completed the program, the best advice I can offer for current students is as follows:

Be curious: Don’t focus on just passing the courses. Read beyond the class requirements. Do your research online. Learn about success stories beyond the ones covered during the weekly sessions.

Build your network: Engage with your classmates and instructors. Attend industry events, both online and in-person. Stay connected on LinkedIn.

Stay sharp and stay involved: FinTech is moving much faster than other traditional industries. You have to be quick and flexible to surf this wave. Focus on data, learn about different DLTs and Blockchain technologies and crypto assets. This is the future of finance.

Q: What are your best hopes for your career in the future?
A: I’m hoping to get much more into crypto and, from a professional career perspective, complete my transition into the FinTech start-up space soon. I am hoping to jumpstart my own FinTech endeavor next…I’m working on a few ideas that I actually first thought about during the FinTech degree program. These ideas served as the core tenents of my capstone project.

Faculty Spotlight: Digital Innovation for FinTech

Faculty: Mike Storiale

Program: Digital Innovation for FinTech

Course: RDFT 101 The New Economy: Global Disruption and the Emergence of FinTech

Education: University of Hartford, M.B.A.

Bio: Mike Storiale is AVP, Innovation Development for Synchrony, the largest provider of private label and co-brand credit cards in the country. At Synchrony, Mike focuses on building the future of technology for their clients and cardholders. Prior to Synchrony, Mike was VP, Digital Banking Manager for Guilford Savings Bank in CT where he developed, implemented and managed all customer-facing technology. His responsibilities spanned the Bank’s digital properties, including online and mobile banking, digital acquisition channels, the corporate Website, voice response unit and the call center. Mike received his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Hartford, and his undergraduate degree in Business with a concentration in International Business and Marketing from Wagner College in New York.

Why is this course important or valuable to a FinTech student?

This course will give FinTech students a robust understanding of traditional banking and finance, as well as the major events that got us here. We pair that with exploration of the emerging and disruptive environments, bringing it all together to help students learn how to build competitive FinTech product strategies.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course? 

This course changes every year, and the environment of FinTech is evolving so quickly that students are often learning things that are happening in real time.

Anything else you would like to share with a student interested in enrolling in the course?

This course will help you learn how to think strategically about building new products, and is an exciting way to grow in the FinTech industry.

For more information on the Digital Innovation for FinTech or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: User-Centered Design

Faculty: Amy Deschenes

Program: User-Centered Design

Course: RUCD 140 Research Methods

Education: Simmons University, MLIS

Bio: Amy Deschenes is a leader in UX and digital accessibility in higher education. She is currently the Head of UX & Digital Accessibility at Harvard Library where she works with librarians and archivists on digital projects. In 2015 she led the establishment of the User Research Center, Harvard’s only usability and digital accessibility lab. She speaks about her work on a regular basis and has presented at conferences like Ladies That UX & UXPA. In addition to Research Methods, she also teaches RUCD 175 Universal Design & Digital Accessibility. You can see examples of her work on https://amydeschenes.com/.

Why is this course important or valuable to a UCD student?

This course gives you the opportunity to get real hands-on experience with a variety of UX research methods. You get to apply these concepts to a real research question or design problem of your choosing. It introduces you to key qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, including surveys, interviews, and usability testing. You also get to practice aspects of project management through your coursework. Even if you’re not intending to be a researcher full-time, this course will give you insight into why research is so important to user-centered design.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course?

This class is fun because students get to select their own research topics and I learn about subject areas outside of my own expertise through their work. In the past students have completed projects about how the pandemic impacted exercise preferences, preferences around video game player styles, and how pet owners find help online. I love being able to lead students through the process of applying the research methods in a real-world context.

For more information on the User-Centered Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Strategic Analytics

Faculty: Travis Dawry

Program: Strategic Analytics MS

Course: RSAN 150 Data Quality and Governance

Education: Brandeis University, M.S.

Bio: Travis earned a B.A. in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Politics from the University of Central Florida in 2009. Since then he has worked in a variety of government organizations, most recently as a Library Specialist for Broward County, located in in South Florida. His language of choice for analytics, and everything else, is R. Travis earned a Master of Science in Strategic Analytics from Brandeis University in the Spring of 2016 and is now an instructor at the Brandeis Rabb School. He currently splits his time between South Florida and Christiansburg, Virginia, where he lives with a veterinarian and a bunch of cats.

About the course-

In RSAN 150 Data Quality and Governance we focus on understanding what data is, how it is used, what it represents, and how it is managed in organizations. This is one of my favorite courses to teach because students from diverse backgrounds each bring a different perspective on the challenges and opportunities presented by the underlying topics. Agnostic of industry, if someone works with data, we explore how their role works within a larger strategy.

 

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

Improving Technical Knowledge to Make Better Decisions Under Uncertainty.

In 2018, I co-founded AccuTennis, a computer vision company, with two electrical engineers. This endeavor is the most technically complex in my career. My experiences writing software and managing product development included a situation at a prior company where I made a very expensive mistake by directing the engineering team to develop an application, which made business sense. An enterprise customer demanded a solution and the engineering team’s primary objection was one of understanding the ROI. I made the case that this enterprise customer would renew its contract and we could upsell this service to our other enterprise customers. However, we ended up delivering a poorly performing solution because of some technical limitations that I should have uncovered during our debate over what to work on. Had I been better informed, I would have been able to ask the right questions to uncover some important technical debt, which inhibited the success of this project.

For my current venture, I needed to better understand the technical foundations of the products so I could make better decisions as CEO. Brandeis was one of the first places I looked for continuing education because I found the two other degrees that I earned there to be valuable (the university offers everything – I also met my wife at Brandeis!).

In general, a tech startup has three technical challenges: the underlying tech, its user experience, and measurement. The underlying tech is the most important and least appreciated because the core tech is often hidden behind the product’s user interface. In our case, we utilize raspberry pi-based hardware to track people and tennis balls in real time with a low margin of error. On top of this core technology are two user interfaces: (1) a TV screen that displays a player’s output in real time, and (2) a mobile app that allows users to authenticate themselves and select what games to play. Our system automatically generates reports that detail what each user (i.e. admin, coach, and player) does. When we implement any change, I filter the work through a user experience focus, which boils down to “does this allow AccuTennis to easily deliver real-time feedback that is useful better or worse?”. Any other consideration is a distance second. 

If we succeed in the above, we have a chance at growing our customer base, and if we do not, we will go out of business. We are a startup with limited funding an do not have many chances to recover from a major miscalculation on what we develop. This brings home the need to understand how the technical challenges relate to our business objectives. 

I found the curriculum within the Masters of Software Engineering, particularly the capstone class, useful in tying together (1) gathering business and technical requirements, (2) understanding stakeholders, and (3) building & delivering technology. Also, some engineers that I worked with in previous roles were snobs about only listening to people with Computer Science and Software Engineering degrees, so now they will.

Written by: Adam Sher

Software Engineering MS, class of 2021

Faculty Spotlight: Digital Marketing and Design

Faculty: Garrett Gillin, MBA

Program: Digital Marketing and Design MS

Course: RDMD 135 Conversion Rate Optimization

Education: Drexel University, MBA

Bio: Garrett Gillin, MBA, is a Co-founder and Principal at 215 Marketing, a 2020 INC 5000 company and Google Premier Partner agency, located in Philadelphia, PA, where he oversees the development and execution of integrated digital marketing initiatives with a concentration on programmatic advertising, marketing automation, and advanced analytics.

Why is this course important or valuable to a Digital Marketing and Design student?

Oftentimes in marketing and design we are so focused on the tactics, that we lose focus of the bigger picture. The CRO course helps students take a step back and look at the full customer journey and identify ways to grow a business through small, incremental improvements at various touch points.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course? 

When I developed this course in collaboration with the department chair, Steve Dupree, we wanted to create something that was relevant and actionable to all businesses regardless of type and size. My favorite part of teaching this course is that students often can use what they learn immediately in their day-to-day jobs and develop a more holistic view of marketing and design that they can apply throughout their careers.

Anything else you would like to share with a student interested in enrolling in the course? 

This course may be a bit different from other courses you have taken. We use your current place-of-work (or a business you are looking to start) as the basis of each week’s assignment, so you can directly apply the learning to the company and industry you work in. Students have found this approach to feel more organic and actionable, while making the content more relatable.

 

For more information on the Digital Marketing and Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

2022 Graduation Ceremony

Your academic achievements are made even more noteworthy because they were made in the midst of “real life”.  I want you to know that the entire University community has great respect for what you have accomplished and how you have done it.” – Dr. Lynne Rosansky, Vice President for the Rabb School of Continuing Studies, in her opening address.

The Rabb School of Continuing Studies honored 130 Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) graduates with an in-person celebration on May 22, 2022. Student speaker, Irina Gaziyeva, a graduate of the MS in Project and Program Management, addressed the Class of 2022 along with guest speaker, Michael Katz, Digital Marketing and Design advisory board member.

In her opening address, Rosansky congratulated graduates on their hard work and dedication during their master’s degree programs. 

“Each of you have persevered through many challenges, joys and disappointments as our world turned virtual,” she said. “Take a moment – reflect. Today is your day – the day to celebrate your success.”

Rosansky also honored User-Centered Design instructor David Lumerman as the recipient of this year’s Rabb School Outstanding Teacher Award. 

“Dave has a reputation for going “above and beyond” with respect to his responsiveness and attention to student needs,” she said. Instructors like Dave who show such dedication and passion shape the learning experience for GPS students.

“I am grateful that I was in school during these years because it allowed me to stay focused, self-motivated, and accountable, said Irina Gaziyeva, and she discussed the challenges of the past few years. “We faced these challenges together.”

Reflecting on her classes and the faculty, “I got to experience small classes and engaging discussions with my classmates. These discussions were the center of my grad school experience.”

Toward the end of her speech, Gaziyeva highlighted “Commencement means the beginning- A beginning of new adventures, new ideas, and new projects.”

Michael Katz, shared his professional journey and the struggles to find balance in life akin to a 3-legged stool “familial life, social life and professional life.” Emphasizing that “your professional passion is so important. Without professional passion, it’s hard to steady that stool leg.”

Katz encouraged graduates to find a company they want to work for. He added “You’re a Brandeis graduate after all, and you have so much to offer. The knowledge and experience you’ve gained throughout your graduate program will allow you the freedom and opportunities to be more selective and not settle.”

Diplomas awarded in each program as follows:

  • Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics (1 graduate)
  • MS in Bioinformatics (10 graduates)
  • MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech (3 graduate)
  • MS in Digital Marketing and Design (29 graduates)
  • MS in Health Informatics (4 graduates)
  • MS in Health and Medical Informatics (5 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security Leadership (7 graduates)
  • MS in Instructional Design and Technology (1 graduate)
  • MS in Learning Experience Design (4 graduates)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (21 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (15 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management (10 graduates)
  • MS in User-Centered Design (16 graduates)
  • MS in Software Engineering (4 graduates)

The graduation ceremony will be viewed online. Congratulations to our graduates!

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