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Poole Initiatives

Business Analytics Practicum Projects Equip Students for Real-World Scenarios

Poole students gain invaluable opportunities to use their skills in a global marketplace increasingly reliant on analytics to help guide companies’ success.

overhead view of a group working on laptops

Seth Freeman didn’t realize how crucial clear communication is in the workplace until he was involved with a project through Poole’s Business Analytics Initiative (BAI) practicum program.

The project quickly convinced him.

In the practicum last fall, before the accounting major graduated in December, his team addressed a business challenge for Labcorp, a life sciences and healthcare company. 

“What I took away was about working with an actual client, trying to understand what they needed, clarifying what we asked for, and following up on our request so they knew what we needed,” Freeman says. “It showed me the true nature of that kind of work and gave me good experience in a real-world scenario.” 

Headshot of Seth Freeman
Seth Freeman

Those real-world scenarios give students invaluable, semester-long opportunities to use their skills in a global marketplace increasingly reliant on analytics to help guide companies’ success. Students apply knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to take on the challenges in the practicums. 

The business analytics practicum courses offer Poole-employer partnerships for students in the undergraduate Business Analytics Honors Program and the two Master of Management programs (Marketing Analytics and Risk and Analytics) and the Business Analytics Graduate Certificate Program (comprising primarily Jenkins MBA students). 

In Freeman’s practicum, his team conducted a cost analysis with data Labcorp provided. 

“A lot of figuring out how to break down the problem Labcorp presented us and creating a solution were based on processes the honors program classes taught us,” Freeman says. He used what he’d learned in courses on databases, data organization and analytics.   

In another practicum through the Business Analytics Honors Program, Garrett Auriene’s team created a forecasting model for the retailer Sonic Automotive.

Headshot of Garrett Auriene
Garrett Auriene

“A class that focused on prediction and forecast modeling really carried over to the practicum,” says Auriene, who learned to manipulate data with software tools.

Terry Song completed the business analytics graduate certificate program, part of Poole’s Jenkins MBA, and the practicum last fall. He worked on a team to develop a forecasting model related to some of Volvo Group’s freight carriers and distribution centers.  

Headshot of Terry Song
Terry Song

The certificate program provided “a seamless transition from foundational knowledge to practical application in solving real-world data science problems,” Song says. He’s a staff systems engineer at Parker Hannifin, a motion-and-control-systems manufacturer in Cary, North Carolina.

Song, a student in the online MBA program, cites several MBA analytics classes that were useful in the Volvo Group project. “These courses equip students with a robust foundation of knowledge and tools necessary to tackle real-world analytics challenges in the context of the practicum project,” he says.

These courses equip students with a robust foundation of knowledge and tools necessary to tackle real-world analytics challenges in the context of the practicum project.

Students’ success in the practicums comes in part from employer resources.

Amit Prakash, who was in Poole’s business analytics honors program, led the practicum project for his team with Envestnet, which developed a framework for customer profiling.  

Headshot of Amit Prakash
Amit Prakash

The company provided a list of its project requirements and any technical support students needed. “That really helped us tailor a deliverable to them,” says Prakash, a 2023 business administration and computer science major.

Poole’s employer partners have skin in the game because of the value they get from the practicums. 

“I’m a big believer in university-industry relationships,” says Matt Mallard, head of transport flow optimization for Volvo Group North America, based in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“I’m interested in what students can accomplish for us that I can’t accomplish with my team, mainly because of time — we can’t get to those things. And with some projects, we don’t have the needed expertise in house,” Mallard says. 

For several semesters, Poole students have worked with Volvo Group on predictive analytics projects. The model students have developed will help Mallard’s team with the sales and operations planning process related to supply chain logistics flows. 

“We’re far enough along to have a model we can put into production and use soon. I’m anticipating this should become an integral part of that process,” says Mallard, who is enrolled in Poole’s business analytics graduate certificate program himself.

“Students have been really engaged in the work. They have good questions,” he says. “The projects are moving forward in a good way.” 

Poole graduates use their BAI practicum experience to move their careers forward, too. 

In his practicum, Prakash assigned tasks to peers based on their areas of specialty: economics, IT, finance. “I learned a lot about what project management looks like, what I need to improve on and what I do best,” says Prakash, an associate web developer at Prometheus Group, a software company based in Raleigh.  

Auriene uses business analytics daily as a database engineer with First Citizens Bank. 

In the practicum, “You get real working experience, working with company data…It was very helpful for transitioning into the full-time role I have now and the perfect preparation for me, working with database management and learning about forecasting,” Auriene says.  

Freeman, an audit intern with accounting firm PwC in Raleigh, will enroll in Poole’s Master of Accounting program this summer. 

“The business analytics practicum and honors program will be vastly helpful in my long-term career approach. I’m prepared for what may happen in the accounting industry because I’ve been exposed to data analytics,” he says.  

That gives Freeman an edge in a competitive field.

“In talking with upper-level management in my accounting firm, they understand the importance of analytics,” he says. “It’s a good tool for the future.”