WVU School of Public Health student participates in challenge to harness the power of data analytics

A West Virginia University School of Public Health student recently teamed up with graduate students from regional universities to participate in the fourth annual Super Analytics Challenge.

Tiffany Salamone, a student in the Master of Health Administration program, applied to the challenge after encouragement from Thomas Bias, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Leadership.

Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh M. Katz Graduate School of Business, the event partners students from WVU, Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University and Penn State University for a hackathon-style competition that takes place over three weeks. Students are challenged to deliver data-driven ideas on how to address a specified issue and serve as a catalyst for change, and they are aided by experts in data analytics, executive coaches and community leaders. At the conclusion of the competition, teams present their solutions to a panel of judges in three phases.

This year’s competition focused on addressing the barriers of connecting people to companies and jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Salamone was placed on a team with students from Carnegie Mellon and Pitt and worked with mentor Justin Mallgrave, DBA, vice president for global information technology at Xylem Water Solutions. The team worked together to address how women in STEM fields can be encouraged to enter the advanced manufacturing sector by improving gender disparities and perceptions of women in the industry. Together, the team created a solution focused on developing a web app with virtual reality simulations, skill enhancement driven by artificial intelligence and a mentorship platform.

“While the challenge focused on workforce development in the advanced manufacturing sector, it helped me develop skills that can be used in health administration,” Salamone said. “I learned more about working with groups of diverse individuals, communicating with potential stakeholders and how to improve presentation skills.”

Throughout the challenge, students also attended professional development workshops that focused on team building, data ethics, client communication and data analytics software.

Salamone said the experience was a chance to try something new while learning skills that can help advance her career.

“I stepped outside my comfort zone with this challenge,” she said. “The thought of using data analytics to solve a problem and doing it with a group of people I didn’t know was intimidating to me. I thought it would be good for me to try something that would challenge me, and I could potentially make connections with others that could last outside of the challenge.”