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Applied Data Science Analytics and Stephanie Rosenthal, PhD

Stephanie Rosenthal, PhD

Look, I love being a writer. I went to school for this stuff, three times. But that was before I knew that data science was a thing, how cool it is, and the kinds of job (and salary!) prospects that are out there for people who study it.

Chatham Assistant Professor of Applied Data Analytics Stephanie Rosenthal filled me in. “Companies are using data science analytics today all over the place,” she tells me, and gives a bunch of examples, which I’m not even going to pare down for you, because that’s how excited I am:

  • Amazon.com and other websites use data analytics to determine what products to recommend to you and even what to charge for them.

  • “Walmart is famous for knowing exactly what to ship to every store at every time, because they track everything—what comes in, what goes out, what the weather was like—whether people tend to buy hot dog buns when there’s a hurricane approaching in addition to toilet paper and bottled water. They know all of these things about collective behavior based on our purchases and demographics.”
  • Credit card fraud is identified using data science analytics “That’s why you’ll get a call as soon as one purchase is made that is out of character for you,” says Rosenthal. “They’ve developed models to see what your normal behavior is, so they can see what’s out of the ordinary—either because a lot of different people are suddenly buying something, or because you’re buying something that seems out of character. You get a phone call because someone did that math.”
  • “Your Google search results look different from mine because they’re based on what we’ve searched for in the past,” Rosenthal says.
  • If you see a rectangle drawn around your face in a photograph that you’re viewing on your phone or computer screen, that’s data analytics, too. “Someone has gone through and labeled faces and worked out how to detect them—in general, what they’re looking for is tone gradients, where the forehead, cheeks and chin are lighter than the eyes, nose, and mouth regions—and that’s just built into cameras today.”
  • “The traffic information you get from your GPS or your phone is possible because it collects data from other phones in cars—whether they’re moving or not. Some of the cool new research I’ve seen coming out of CMU figures out how to change the timing of traffic lights based on the number of cars that are waiting there, so when there is a lot of traffic coming, it can be pushed through faster.”
  • Voice recognition programs like Siri and Alexa are built using data analytics around natural language.

In general, says Rosenthal, data science and data analytics try to get information from data—analyzing patterns to come up with insights. What’s the difference between the two? “Very roughly,” she says, “I would say that data analytics is about running statistics on data, and data science is about collecting it, getting it in the right format, and visualizing it in ways that are productive. We’ll be doing both, which is why the major is called Applied Data Science Analytics.”

Data science and data analytics are some of the highest paying jobs in the job market today. People all want to make better use of their data. It’s not just Microsoft and Facebook and Google who are hiring those people; it’s also UPMC and Highmark, and marketing, travel companies, school systems, consulting firms. Our goal is to prepare students to be successful in any of those places.”

This fall, Rosenthal is teaching a research methods course and an introduction to programming course. “I learned to program a long time ago, from my gym teacher,” she says. “I wasn’t really taught why things work, just how to code. So my goal for the Intro to Programming course is to try to really give students insight into why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

Rosenthal will also be co-teaching the Capstone Seminar for some business courses with Professor and Director of Business Programs Rachel Chung. For example, students in the management information systems major will be helping the Master of Arts in Food Studies students open their new coffee lab.

It’s a business that’s starting up; there’s no reason our students shouldn’t be able to help analyze what their business plan should look like,” she says. 

Rosenthal plans to provide students with more hands-on experience by involving them in her own research, too. “I’m interested in how we can collect data more intelligently and also to teach data collection and research methods for effectively,” she says. She is developing a data collection platform to deploy on campus. Students in Rosenthal’s current classes are researching where it should be located, what it should do, and how it could be marketed. Once deployed, students in the Applied Data Science Analytics major will be able to use the data collected by the platform in their classes and also display their work for the campus to see.

Rosenthal is also interested in “producing English explanations of what data analytics say.” In computer security, for example, experts often monitor networks by hand, because of lack of trust that artificial intelligence would make the right decision. “We can help people trust systems better if we do a good job of explaining why they should,” she says.

Chatham’s Applied Data Science Analytics program teaches students to critically identify, communicate, and analyze challenging analytical problems, effectively organize and manage datasets, and develop robust solutions. They are also equipped to evaluate ethical, privacy, and security challenges in their fields of practice.

 

Alumna profile: Hallie Dumont, Master of Interior Architecture ‘16

hallie

It was while working in home remodeling with her partner Jodi that Hallie Dumont’s eyes were opened to the unhealthy relationship that some people have with their homes.

“Big houses tend to be a burden, I think, for people,” she says. “They lend themselves to people holding on too too much stuff. My partner came in one day and found a homeowner lying on the floor one day curled up in the fetal position.”

Dumont and Jodi were working on a particularly big remodeling job. “It was a house for two people that was about 22,000 square feet—that’s about the size of a Walmart. It really flipped some sort of switch for me. The project just seemed so unsustainable. They probably had four air conditioning units for this one home for two people, and the material choices were just not intelligent as far as health or environment. I became very interested in the opposite end of the spectrum, which is the tiny house movement, micro-apartments—everything we call alternative housing.”

That brought her to Chatham. Dumont enrolled in the Master of Interior Architecture program, with the goal of concentrating on alternative housing.

‘From the beginning at Chatham I was interested in creating intelligent, smart, efficient residential spaces,” says Dumont. “So my thesis here was on pre-fab interiors, which isn’t really a thing but I made it a thing. I got an internship in Shadyside with an architect named Eric Fisher. I loved working under him; I learned so much. It was like having another studio course. I asked him if I could stay on and if we could design a tiny house (which I called the Nanohouse) over the summer. So I got to do that with him, which was awesome.”

“My goal was to build the Nanohouse, but when I tried to find funding, I realized that it was going to be really expensive. And building tiny houses for rich people wasn’t my goal.”

Eric Fisher had opened his studio space to all sorts of creative people working in Pittsburgh, and fortuitously, that’s where Dumont met her future business partner, Brian Gaudio, an architect recently returned to Pittsburgh from Central and South America. Brian was working to get his start-up, Module, off the ground. In Dumont, he found a kindred spirit and, what’s better, his future Chief Design Officer.

Tiny houses aren’t that new, but Module has some new takes on the idea. For one, they’re designed to be urban. “Normally when you see a tiny house, there’s all this open land around them,” says Dumont. “These are designed to be taken off a trailer and sat on a concrete foundation.” They’re also stackable. Second or third floors can be added, and additions can be added to the side or rear.

“What we’ve found is that the idea of a starter home—a home that you buy when you’re first starting out and then sell once it no longer meets your needs—isn’t really resonating with a lot of millennials. So Module’s solution is to offer alternative housing that can grow with you.”

“Module designs adaptable housing that changes as your needs do. Through a patent-pending wall system and design platform, Module provides first-time homebuyers with just the right amount of space at the right time.” – from Module’s website

What might that look like? There are a couple of prototypes.

One incorporates a built-in Air BnB unit, with a separate entrance and bedroom/bathroom that is totally cut off from the house. “It can help help supplement your mortgage payment at the beginning,” says Dumont, “but over time, the house can absorb that unit, so it can become a half-bedroom, maybe a workspace or a nursery, and the exterior entrance can be removed.”

image

Another design starts as a co-living space, but over time, as the owner makes more money or the family grows, the house can split. “You insert a party wall, and you get what’s basically a duplex. Each can have their own separate single family unit,” Dumont explains.

“I think the coolest thing is how excited people get about the idea. Everyone from baby boomers to millennials. That’s been really cool to see.”

“We designed and built a demo unit that would be attached to a larger house for a ‘faux client’,” says Dumont. “He likes to entertain and have family members over to stay, and he’s also a workaholic. It’s a space where he can play board games and have movie nights. A local furniture maker called Bones and All made a coffee table that can flip out into a card table, and there’s a Murphy bed that transitions into a desk unit.”

kennys-house

module-demo
“That unit was the first time I started with a blank piece of paper and a blank space and then made something real,” says Dumont. “In smaller units, every bit of space—down to a sixteenth of an inch—has to be accounted for. In this case, the furniture and the building were being constructed at the same time, so we had to hope all the measurements worked out. It ended up being really close. I had space under a window where we wanted to put in a bench seat, and we had to rip off an edge banding and trim down an outlet. I learned a lot on this project,” she laughs.

The unit will be on display throughout the summer on the North Side, and Dumont is excited to have people walk through it. “We’ve partnered with Comcast for it, and the unit incorporates their smart home technologies—integrated home security, automation, and energy management controls,” she says.

Chatham University’s Master of Interior Architecture is a first professional interior design program that prepares students for practice in an interior design or architecture firm. The program, accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), is geared toward students with undergraduate degrees in fields other than interior architecture or interior design.

alumna profile: Allie Frownfelter ’17

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Bottle Thread logo, designed by Allie Frownfelter

“I knew I wanted to start a business,” says recent Chatham graduate Allie Frownfelter, “but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Inspiration came little by little. In one of her sustainability classes, Frownfelter (who majored in Sustainability) was shocked by an image the class was shown. “It looked like a bunch of pixels on the screen,” she says, “but the professor said that it represented the number of plastic bottles that gets thrown out every second.”

Later, she overheard a woman expressing interest in starting a clothing line. Sustainable fashion was something that had interested Frownfelter, because it struck her as an untapped market, and because it tapped something inside of her.

“I wanted to study abroad after my bachelor’s degree, and have the least amount of clothing that could be turned into the widest array of outfits while I traveled,” she says.

“Say goodbye to wrinkles and ill-fitting shirts forever.  Our sustainable blouses are constructed with a proprietary blend of fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. The high-quality fabric is UV protected, Anti-pilling, breathable, and moisture-wicking. You could comfortably wear this shirt backpacking, though it looks even better at the office, or writing at a coffee shop in Barcelona.” – from the Bottle Thread website  

The idea of making a button-down shirt for women particularly resonated. “They’re often baggy, uncomfortable, and need to be ironed,” says Frownfelter. “I wanted to make a shirt that you could wear to work, while traveling—something that has that versatility.”

Frownfelter found a manufacturer in Southern California called Indie Source that offers a sustainable fabric partially made from recycled plastic bottles. Her sustainable clothing line—called Bottle Thread—will launch with a women’s shirt, a men’s shirt, and a dress. The clothing will be designed by Indie Source to Frownfelter’s specifications, and she will approve the fabric, cut, buttons, colors, and other elements of the clothing line. “It’s all online,” she says, “so other than the samples, I don’t have to touch anything.”

A white female with long brown hair wearing a denim jacket and sunglasses on top of her head holds up two cardboard sheets with gray fabric samples stabled to them.
Allie with fabric samples

Frownfelter came to Chatham as a transfer student from Millersville, on the eastern side of Pennsylvania. “I just fell in love with the Sustainability program,” she says. “It starts by showing all these problems we have, but also introduces ways that we can start to fix them.”

A young woman in a blue hat and olive green overalls holding a shovel stands in a stream. She is laughing, and there is snow all around.
Allie collecting stream data for one of the qualitative ecology labs.

She credits two courses in particular: Sustainable Transition Management and Sustainable Systems. “Those courses combined opened my mind to possibilities,” she says. “What they taught me was that things take time, and that you can change things incrementally.”

“You can start a business, change a system slightly, direct it into a new kind of way to go somewhere else. That’s what I’m doing with Bottle Thread.”

“During my last semester, I took a quantitative ecology class that focused on environmental statistics,” says Frownfelter. “I was never a math person, so I procrastinated taking that class.  But the timing was perfect, because I was able to overcome my math inaptitude and actually create reliable projections for investors in Bottle Thread.”

Frownfelter was able to have her company dovetail nicely with her coursework: In her Design Praxis course, she developed a logo and brand identity for Bottle Thread.  And her senior capstone project was the Bottle Thread business plan, written under the advisement of Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Business Thomas Macagno.

“The wrinkle free material saves customers on average $300 a year in dry cleaning and can be packed in your suitcase without worrying about finding an iron…. A single blouse reduces ocean and landfill pollution and is made from approximately 42 recycled bottles. Proudly made in the USA”. – from the Bottle Thread website  

“I knew I was going to write a business plan anyway,” she says. “But having the opportunity to consolidate my work into an educational experience meant that I was able to focus more on how to make the company as sustainable as possible. I don’t think I would have been able to be this environmentally focused if I didn’t have such an incentive. Instead, I probably would have focused on creating the best quality product at the cheapest cost, virtually throwing out a lot of the values I learned through my degree for the sake of efficiency because it was easier. Consolidation of the two projects helped me merge my degree into my company, which is basically the new American Dream.”

Frownfelter is also working with the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham. The CWE has been helping her with marketing and connecting her to resources including networking events. As the business expands, Frownfelter expects that she’ll be able to take advantage of more services offered by the CWE, but their input has already proven valuable. “The idea to use bra sizes for the shirts was just an off-the-cuff comment made by someone at the CWE, but I think it is a fabulous idea so I am taking it and running with it,” she says.

Bottle Thread and Company is filed as a benefit LLC, which means that Frownfelter must file an annual report with the state explaining how Bottle Thread benefits people and/or the environment.  “Being a benefit LLC allows my company to focus on things other than purely making money,” she says.

Frownfelter hopes to begin shipping on July 1. As of now, Bottle Thread items are likely to be available in white, black, and steel. And a Chatham purple.

 

Kathryn Polaski ’17 wins business simulation competition

kp-IMG_2063Don’t be fooled by the relative youth of Chatham’s B.A. in Management Information Systems (pdf) program. They’re churning out winners already.

Take Kathryn Polaski ’17.  In 2015, Polaski was alerted by her advisor, Professor and Business Programs Director Rachel Chung, to the Forté College to Business Leadership Conference hosted by PNC at the end of October. Founded in 2001, the Forté Foundation aims to increase the participation of women in undergraduate and graduate business programs and encourage them to work in the business community. Polaski applied to the conference and was accepted, the only Chatham student to attend.

Open to 100 women undergraduate students from around the country, the conference combines a morning of presentations and networking with an afternoon computer simulation business competition. Students were grouped into “companies”, assigned roles, and made all the decisions associated with running a business, right from their table.

“Our product was cars,” says Polaski, who notes that the product didn’t matter much. “We had to choose whether to be a generic, midrange, or luxury brand. That determined the price range we set, which determined the quality of raw materials we were going to put into our product.”

Polaski was given the role of Head of Sales, Staff, and Technology. “I decided where we’d put our offices, how many people we’d employ, and how much we’d pay them,” she says. Every decision was met with real-time data on a panel on the side of the screen, including revenue, but also other indicators such as employee satisfaction.  When that started to decline, Polaski decided to increase wages. “We talked decisions over together,” she says. “It was definitely a teamwork thing.”

“At certain points it was a rush,” she continues, “because periods would end and we’d have to stop. We’d see where we were at, and where we needed to improve. When the next period started, we might open an office, close an office, or market in a different region.”

“More than anything, I was surprised at how much I knew. We learned a lot from each other. We probably learned as much from each other as we did from everyone else who spoke to us that day.”

Judges were able to see each team’s data, and circulated among the teams to offer suggestions. At one point in the afternoon, they announced the three leading teams (based on profitability and efficiency), each of which was then tasked with putting together a PowerPoint presentation. “We put together an overview—what sort of business decisions we made, number of offices, number of employees, gross domestic product,” says Polaski.

Polaski’s team won the competition.

Team members were awarded informal mentorships with PNC executives. “We had phone calls with them, and we could send them our resumes for feedback,” says Polaski. “It was great to have that access.” As it happens, Polaski secured a technology internship with PNC for summer 2017, but thinks it’s coincidental. “They saw that I won the Forté competition, but I don’t think they realized the PNC connection,” she laughs.

She is applying to Chatham’s MBA program and to Carnegie Mellon University’s Masters in Information Systems Management program, but also considering taking some time to work before starting graduate school.  The technology internship at PNC has a great track record of leading to jobs after graduation, she says. “There’s a full-year rotational program so that you can test out all these different areas of technology and figure out where you want to be.”

Polaski is a member of the Chatham Marketing Association, in the Music Club (she’s also pursuing a minor in music), and a co-organizer for tech meet-up group ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Pittsburgh. She also played basketball during her first year

“Chatham is such a great place to learn how to be a leader and learn from people who are higher up from you. That is a lot of what has helped me in real life situations.”

Advice for a student thinking about participating in the Forté College to Business Leadership Conference? “Don’t go into it thinking you know less than everyone else—everyone’s probably in the same boat as you,” Polaski says. “Listen to what everyone has to say. There’s time to ask questions- make sure you do that. Don’t be afraid to say something during the simulation if you think it should be something else. That’s important.”

Update, 12/17:  Polaski writes: “I recently accepted a position with PNC in their Technology & Innovation department. My job title is ‘Technology Development Program Associate.’

The program lasts 12 months, during the first six of which, associates rotate through three positions:  Business Systems Analyst, Application Developer, and Infrastructure Analyst.

During months 6-12, associates will be placed in one position to gain a deeper understanding of the role. Upon completion of the program, associates are placed into one of the listed positions, based on preference, performance, and business need.”

The MIS major prepares students to become critical thinkers and innovative designers of contemporary information systems in organizational settings. They learn to recognize opportunities to improve business processes or areas, communicate with stakeholders to elicit requirements for the best solution, and effectively implement and manage information systems projects. Learn more about undergraduate business programs at Chatham University.

This story was first reported on Chatham’s Department of Business and Entrepreneurship’s blog 

 

 

Campus Community Profile: Deborah DeLong, PhD

Dr. DeLong, front-right, with members of the CMA at the AMA Collegiate Case Competition.
Dr. DeLong, front-right, with members of the CMA at the AMA Collegiate Case Competition.

Professor DeLong is advisor to the Chatham Marketing Association. This year, CMA placed third in the prestigious national American Marketing Association (AMA)’s Collegiate Case Competition, out of 91 total submissions.  

This is the most prestigious and challenging event that the AMA offers to students; CMA once again put Chatham on the map as a significant source of marketing talent. ” – Deborah DeLong

Hometown: Annandale, VA
Position at Chatham: Associate Professor of Marketing and faculty advisor to the Chatham Marketing Association
Came to Chatham: 2006
Interests: Running, book club, travel

What got you interested in marketing?
In graduate school, I intended to pursue a career in industrial psychology since that’s where I had my training. Next thing I know, I’m working at an advertising agency. This position allowed me to turn those skills around to focus on customers instead of on employees.

What are your main areas of research interest?
Mostly branding and marketing strategy, but since coming to Chatham my research has focused on sustainability. Sustainability ties in with one of my interests, consumer behavior. I research how and why a consumer or an employee might be motivated to buy green products, engage in environmentally responsible behaviors, and in general adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Both industrial psychology and marketing come into play when explaining the motivations and conditions that foster sustainable behavior inside and outside of a company setting.

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Short course write-up from “The Recorder”, Chatham’s alumni magazine, Fall 2014.

What is your role in the American Marketing Association?
I first joined AMA when I was working as a business analytics manager at Entergy Corporation in 1998. I continued as an AMA member as a Clinical Marketing Professor at Tulane University in 2002. When I came to Chatham in 2006, I realized that the collegiate division of the AMA offers a world of opportunities for students, so we began the Chatham Marketing Association chapter. About four or five years ago, I was elected to the AMA Collegiate Chapters Council (CCC), which is the planning group of 10 faculty advisors from the 350 collegiate chapters in the organization. It’s a pretty big honor and a lot of responsibility. Within the Council, I am in charge of the annual Collegiate Case Competition and a few other smaller competitions. I also help with all aspects of year-round collegiate programming and help coordinate the annual conference that is attended by 1500+ marketing undergraduates each spring. I’m currently the president-elect of the Council and also serve as Collegiate Relations Committee co-chair for the Pittsburgh AMA, our local professional AMA chapter. 

What is the Collegiate Case Competition?
It’s a rigorous, nationally-recognized competition with two goals—to allow students to work together on a real-world business challenge, and to allow the client to benefit from input by the country’s top marketing students. I help the sponsoring company define their key business challenges and constraints; write the case; coordinate all of the details related to recruiting the judges, managing multiple rounds of submissions and scoring, and overseeing the final presentations by finalist teams. The case sponsor is usually a big name brand company. Last year it was The Hershey Company, and this coming year it is eBay.  Students use the written case to develop the marketing strategy that they present to the client if they become finalists. This year, we were one of only 10 finalist teams (out of 350 collegiate chapters) invited to present our case solution to The Hershey Company’s brand management team. Our students delivered a fantastic case solution followed by Q&A with Hershey’s team.

What’s in a case?
The case is very clear about the business challenge and what student teams should focus on. It will say something like “the analysis and your solution and submission needs to address this, this, this and this.” So for Cool Blasts (the Hershey Company’s Icebreakers’ product) last year, it was value proposition and target market. In general it’s also the marketing mix, but the client might say “don’t change the price or packaging.”

For a school of our size, competing against “Ivies”, the best business schools in the country, and massive state universities with tons of resources and support, coming in third in the Collegiate Case Competition is an unbelievably significant accomplishment.”

What makes participating in AMA enjoyable for you?
I realized very quickly that if I didn’t get involved with outside organizations in my field, I was going to be alone in my work. I needed to submit my research to conferences and meet colleagues, but also get involved with the operational side of organizations and be able to partner with colleagues that have similar interests and a similar commitment to student education. It’s enjoyable because it helps me to get outside of the perimeter of Chatham, which makes me a better teacher, a better practitioner, a better scientist, and a better member of the academy.

How does AMA help students learn about marketing and/or business?
There is a lot to be said for projects and assignments in a class. However, I think that there is a certain comfort level in only ever being exposed to other students in your own institution. The value of the AMA is that it really is an infusion of what it’s like down the road after you’re done with your degree. You get exposure to other students and other schools. While the collegiate AMA is competitive in that students compete for awards and recognition, I see it as cooperative too, because in marketing one of the biggest success factors is learning how to work and play nicely with others.

Any CMA accomplishments that you’re especially proud of?
Definitely our performance in the Collegiate Case Competition, where we’ve placed in the finals twice since I have been at Chatham. This is an incredible repeat accomplishment —the other schools that make it to the finals are usually large state schools and the Ivy League Whartons of the world. Each time I helped the team along, but more importantly it’s about my students taking it upon themselves to be committed and follow through on a challenge that is really almost insurmountable. I also think we do an amazing job with social impact. The Young Art Fair is our signature accomplishment; we’re becoming known for it in the Pittsburgh area. I’m also really proud of the fact that a lot of the officers in CMA have gone on to have decent careers in marketing, and from what I hear it was their experiences as CMA officers that helped make this happen for them, and some of the main things they talked about in their interviews.

 

Student profile: Lynzy Groves ‘16

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Lynzy Groves ’16 is one of two recipients of the Collegiate American Marketing Association’s Social Impact Scholarship Award. She will receive $5000 toward her 2016-17 tuition.

An active member of the Chatham Marketing Association (CMA), Lynzy serves as Vice-President of Community Impact, a CMA position that provides leadership, planning, and marketing know-how to guide the club in all of its social outreach activities. For the past two years, CMA has participated in the “Young Art” fair, an event that raises awareness and funds for The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Free Care Fund. Each year, Lynzy planned the format, developed relationships with Hospital staff, collected artwork from students on Chatham’s campus, developed promotional materials, identified and collected silent auction items, and organized and set up the venue.

As President of Chatham’s Relay For Life organization, Lynzy recruits staff, sets goals, coordinates fundraising efforts, conducts community and sponsorship outreach, and designs event promotions and communications. Last year, she interned with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). She did cold calling, mass mailings, volunteer coordination, auction item and donation solicitation, and constructing and sending pre and post-event press releases.

“The best part of Lynzy’s leadership in this role is her ability to motivate and inspire others to make a commitment and stick with it, despite difficulties with competing priorities and finite resources. Her positive attitude is an inspiration to everyone she touches, making involvement in the program rewarding in of itself,”

— Professor Deborah DeLong, PhD.

Where are you from?
Chicora, PA. It’s a very very small town, about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh.

Why did you decide to come to Chatham?
My mom went to graduate school in Pittsburgh, and told me that she thought I would love Chatham. And then the first time I stepped on campus, I thought this is the place I need to be. It felt like home.

I don’t think I would have had as many opportunities anywhere else, such a small school, individualized attention, really fosters your growth as a person. I’m not the same person I was freshman year. 

What course or courses have been most meaningful to you here? Well, I started as an art major, but quickly realized I didn’t want that to be my job, so after freshman year, I started exploring other interests. I took Principles of Marketing with Dr. DeLong, and just fell in love with how it unites the social aspect of business with numbers and creativity. I always knew I wanted to do something that gave back to people, and I thought marketing could be a way I could do that.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I try to focus my marketing skills on the social impact area. I love working with non-profits, especially when I can see firsthand how they give back to the community. I like being able to use my marketing skills to create events and promote them and unite people in the spirit of giving back.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big music fan; it’s my relaxation. I DJ for birthday parties and things like that. And I still love drawing. I have a minor in graphic design, and I design posters that you might see around campus, especially when it’s time for the Relay for Life.

What do you think you’d like to do after you graduate?
I’m definitely going to go into the nonprofit world. Money isn’t a priority; I want to make sure my work means something to someone. I intend to always have purpose behind my work.

This year, for the second time since 2010, Chatham’s CMA is a finalist in the AMA’s International Collegiate Case Competition. The challenge was  to devise a new strategy and tactical marketing program for the Hershey Company’s Ice Breakers brand.  CMA students will  present their case solution to senior management of The Hershey Company in the finals round held at the collegiate conference in New Orleans in March.

M.A. IN FOOD STUDIES STUDENTS PRODUCE NEW GINGER WHISKEY

product lineNote: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. All photos by John Altdorfer.

Elizabeth Overholt was born in 1818. She was the fifth child of Abraham Overholt, owner of a prosperous whiskey distillery in Westmoreland County, PA. Romance did not seem to be in the cards for Elizabeth, but at 28, she fell in love and conceived a child with a man called John who worked in her father’s mill. A biographer writes: “It was a common surmise in the community at the time that Elizabeth’s parents would have preferred a more sedate and better established suitor than the impetuous, red-headed scion of the Celts and Burgundians, but as there was no withstanding her calm inflexibility, the wedding took place at the homestead on October 9th, 1847.”[1] Their second child was the industrialist, financier, and art patron Henry Clay Frick.

Three miles from the Frick Fine Arts Building and almost 200 years after Elizabeth’s birth, five M.A. in Food Studies students from the Falk School of Sustainability are gathered around a table at Wigle Whiskey, a local distillery that also offers on-site retail and tasting. With them is Wigle co-owner and Chatham adjunct faculty member, Meredith Grelli. Grelli teaches an intensive two-semester new product development course, and students have been working since the fall to develop—from ideation to market—a ginger whiskey that they plan to release around Valentine’s Day 2016. Why then? Because marketing will be tied to the love story of red-haired John (“ginger”) and distillery daughter Elizabeth (“whiskey”). The decision to pair whiskey and ginger was made before the team made the John and Elizabeth connection, but savvy marketers tell stories, and these are savvy marketers.

organic grains

The class finishes up a conference call about sourcing ingredients with a food scientist from Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam. Meredith asks the group—Maureen Gullen, Sam Mass, Erica Rabbin, Katie Walker, and Emily Gallivan—for their thoughts.

“The quality of ginger’s going to be really important,” says one. They had planned to source ginger from the greenhouse at the Frick Conservatory, but now they plan to grow it at Eden Hall. Grelli asks how they would deal with the lack of consistency given that they don’t know that the ginger will come from the same supplier.

The students have done their research and answer with confidence. “Consumers want consistency, but with an artisanal supplier, they’re willing to accept variation and even see it as a positive,” says Gullen.

“I think it adds to the consumer experience,” agrees Mass. “People who are into it like talking about the different deep cuts. It creates a culture and discourse that would never exist in a large company.”

The new product development course began to take shape when Grelli was approached by Food Studies Program Director Alice Julier, Ph.D, about taking on interns. “The Food Studies program sounded amazing, like a program I would want to be in,” says Grelli. “There are immense opportunities to bring education into the business of food, especially exposing students to new product development. I wanted the students to experience the whole process, starting with creating concepts, testing with focus groups, all the way through promotion,” she says. “We’re taking the path you’d take in a big food company, and jerry-rigging it for a small shop.”

Meredith2

Take a look at their first assignment, from last September: 1) visit a grocery store, liquor store, restaurant or bar, 2) identify two innovations, 3) think about what makes them “interesting, successful or flops”, and 4) create a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on their findings. Two things jump out: The course is exceptionally thoughtful on one hand and participatory on the other. In fact, the degree to which it interpolates theory, research, and hands-on practice is extraordinary, especially considering the truncated time frame. Of course, the truncated time frame makes it an even better idea to assign such readings as “Making Group Brainstorming More Effective: Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective.” Everything fits together.

“We’re working together in a group in such a way that it functions like a business. Every week at least one of us presented something to the others,” says Walker. She and Gullen are co-leading production and consumer testing. Rabbin leads recipe development. Mass heads design and labeling, Gallivin is in charge of PR and planning the launch. Grelli has arranged an impressive array of speakers and visits, from a tour of the HJ Heinz Innovation Center from the director of research and development to a meeting with a Pennsylvania ginger farmer to a visit with a food journalist about how to build relationships with reporters. She calls it the new product class she wishes she had in business school.

production

The first Food Studies-Wigle new product development course was held last year, when eight students worked with Grelli to develop Pennsylvania’s first apple whiskey. They conducted a rigorous series of consumer research, worked with local grain growers, apple growers, and the Wigle production team to produce one of Wigle’s most successful releases of the year. In a textbook example of merging business and sustainability, the students made the decision that in terms of cost and marketing, it was more important that the apples be local than organic. Wigle Wayward, as the whiskey is called, is made from five kinds of apples from Soergel’s orchards in the North Hills. “The first year we started I thought “these are not business students, so I’m going to go business-lite,” laughs Grelli, who also co-facilitates the MyBusiness Startup program run by Chatham’s Center for Women and Entrepreneurship.“ But they just wanted more! So I was like, ‘all right’! We’re doing it!”

“I think Chatham is the best place to deliver this kind of program,” she continues. “It’s place-based and focused on community and entrepreneurship,” says Grelli.   “We’re thinking about how to further our partnership, perhaps collaborating on a series of seasonals. Next year’s class might do spring or summer whiskey, for example.”

“I feel like no matter what we do after this there will be an aspect of this class that will help us,” says Mass.

[1] “Henry Clay Frick the Man” by George Harvey, published 1928

CWE 10TH ANNIVERSARY: Q AND A WITH REBECCA HARRIS

harris 1Rebecca Harris is the Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. 2015 marks the Center’s 10th anniversary.

What changes have you noticed in the entrepreneurial climate for women?

In Pittsburgh, we’ve noticed more women starting businesses, especially younger women, and an increase in the diversity of industries. At the same time, there has been an incredible increase of support for these businesses within the Center and the Chatham community as well as in the greater Pittsburgh region. And we’ve noticed a shift from need-based entrepreneurs to desire-based entrepreneurs, as pressures from the recession decrease.

Are there any Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs or start-ups that you think have been particularly successful?

We’ve worked with many exceptional women, some of whom launched their businesses with our programs ten years ago and have now circled back to mentor other members. Most of the women who take our entrepreneurial training programs have been referred by a client of the Center, which is a testament to the success of the businesses who have participated in our offerings.

What would you say are the biggest changes the CWE has gone through in the past 10 years?

Over the past 10 years, the Center has developed a continuum of services, from start-up programs like our proprietary MyBusiness Startup to those that allow us to work with more established businesses, such as MyBusiness Growth and MyBoard. We’re bringing in a wider variety of local and national speakers, offering more events, and spending more time in the community, doing presentations and workshops.  Finally, we have formed strong connections with other universities, entrepreneurial support organizations in Pittsburgh, and a wide variety of departments at Chatham University.

What Center accomplishments are you most proud of?

Over the past two years, we’ve developed a customized curriculum specifically for women in MyBusiness Startup and MyBusiness Growth.  We’re extremely proud of the success that we’ve had developing our own programming, including the MyConsulting Corner program, which combines a field-study experience for MBA students with hands-on assistance for women business owners in the community. Prior to that, the Center began one of Pittsburgh’s first morning networking events for women with our Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series and we’re proud to have such a successful program still happening today. This year we also celebrate ten years of our annual Think Big Forum.

What’s on the horizon for the CWE?

We look forward to continuing to support women as part of the Women’s Institute, as they start and grow their businesses through our programs, mentoring and networking opportunities, and we’re excited to continue working with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide opportunities for our members.

 

STARBUCKS CO-FOUNDER ADDRESSES STUDENTS AT BUSINESS MIXER

“Starbucks was not started by a guy in a nice suit with gray hair,” says the man in the nice suit with gray hair. This is Zev Siegl, and, to be fair, it’s been a couple years since he and two friends started Starbucks in 1970. Since then, the success of Starbucks may be best encapsulated in a 1998 headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion: “New Starbucks Opens In Restroom Of Existing Starbucks.” On January 22, Siegl shared some thoughts on entrepreneurship with Chatham students.

A few highlights:

Pick the right type of business
“We had an unfair advantage,” says Siegl. “Caffeine makes for a lot of repeat customers.” Until 1983, Starbucks – which started as a retail shop selling ground coffee, equipment and spices – gave away cups of coffee in the stores. “There were no gourmet coffee stores in Seattle in 1970,” he says. “We wanted to build affection for coffee that’s thoughtfully produced.”

Starbucks gradually expanded into roasting their own beans, then making beverages. The first coffee bar opened in 1983. “Now we were in three businesses,” says Siegl. “Roasting, retailing, and selling beverages.”

Grow slowly.
“The idea is anathema these days, because of the window of opportunity,” Siegl admits. “But we grew slowly. After ten years, we had six stores. Right now, there are 12,000 in the U.S. alone.” Siegl also mentioned that growing slowly allowed them to manage their costs too, citing postponing purchases until the business is profitable as one way to reduce expenses.

Consider alternate sources of funding.
“There’s a tendency for the first-time entrepreneur to get bogged down in the business plan. You need to focus on the Excel spreadsheet – the financial forecast,” says Siegl. “You’ll probably be stunned by how much money you need. But you can take advantage of grants and other government programs, get customers to prepay before opening day, do trades and exchanges of services or equipment, or just do it yourself.”

Find a mentor.
“Find a mentor who really has the keys to the kingdom and say ‘let’s go have dinner,’” says Siegl, who cites Alfred Peet of Peet’s Coffee & Tea as his mentor.

Be strategic about product development.
In the late 80’s, Starbucks introduced Frappucinos to fulfill a marketing need. People who came in for their morning coffee now had a reason to come back in the afternoon.

Add value.
“Get involved with a social good,” Siegel says. “Collect money from customers for organizations doing good in the community. Think of it as an opportunity to give back.”

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: RACHEL CHUNG, PH.D.

Chung-1024x683

Title: Director of Business Programs

Before joining Chatham in 2013, while at Carlow University, Dr. Chung was featured on a BBC World News story about Twins Days Festival, the world’s largest gathering for twins and multiples. At the festival, Dr. Chung and her team gathered data from more than 200 pairs of twins, seeking to determine whether there was a genetic basis for online behavior. Originally from Taiwan, Dr. Chung now lives in the North Hills. Her personal interests include cooking and hunting for dinosaurs with her son Connor.

What do you think about the integration of graduate and undergraduate business programs?

I should start by saying that our programs have always been administratively integrated. Now the academics will be integrated too. I think there will be some very positive changes. Take our Marketing faculty, for example. They used to teach only undergraduates, and our grad students were taught by professionals working in the field. But having a professor teach the graduate class means that he or she can connect the dots for the students. The professors keep track of industry trends, because it’s their research area and they’re immersed in it. Chatham’s MBA is an academics program, and we need to have Ph.D.s there. And it’s good for them, too. It means that they don’t have to teach so many classes outside their field of expertise. If you’re enrolled in a class, you really want the instructor to keep track of what’s changing in the field, and no one can keep track of everything that’s going on in six different fields. It’s just not possible. We’re also excited about increased opportunities for interaction between our graduate and undergraduate students.

Is there anything in place to promote that interaction?

Yes, and we’re working on developing more. For example, we used to hold separate mixers for undergraduate and graduate students. Now we’re combining them, and holding the mixer from 4:30pm, when most undergraduates are likely to be ending classes, to 6:30pm, close to when many graduate students begin their classes. I’d say it’s been very successful.

We’re also working with Sean McGreevey (Assistant Dean for Career Development) on opportunities to have some graduate-undergraduate mentoring. The mixers are a great mechanism for helping mentoring to happen. Students don’t have to coordinate their schedules, they can say “I’ll just meet you at the mixer!”

For updates about Business programs, check out the Chatham MBA blog »