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MSc students use business and analytical skills to help the community

Dec 3, 2020

MSc ProBono Analytics Club

L-R: MSc students Mubasshira Khalid, Leo Sun, Talissa Watson, Aderimike Lala, and Vu Nguyen in front of Sidetrack Café, one of the MSc Pro Bono Analytics Club's community partners.

Photo provided by the MSc Pro Bono Analytics Club

While doing her undergraduate degree at Western University, Talissa Watson volunteered teaching English at the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre and enjoyed getting a chance to connect with people in the community outside of the university.

So when she entered Ivey’s MSc Business Analytics program last January, Watson began looking for ways to use the new skills she was learning in the classroom to help the community.

“I wanted to continue to give back and utilize my time in a way that helped me with professional development,” she said.

Watson created the Ivey MSc Pro Bono Analytics Club, which was officially built into the MSc program in April, to enable students in the MSc’s International Business, Business Analytics, and Digital Management streams to provide free consulting and analytics services to small businesses and non-profit organizations predominantly in London, Ont. There are currently 60 club members, including 38 who are analysts. Some examples of the community projects they’re working on include donation optimization for the Eldon House museum; client management for Single Women in Motherhood; a scheduling model for Sidetrack Café; an operations dashboard for the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre; and data analysis around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) for the MSc Program Office and MSc Association. The club is also helping GMAT Mentors, a non-profit organization run by MacGregor Ross and Kanishk Chandra, both MSc ’20, to create an automation process. The students are divided into small teams according to expertise and assigned to the projects that best fit their skillsets.

Helping organizations harness the power of data

“There are many companies out there that want to see the power of better data collection to improve their client relationships, or maximize on some data that they have already collected to help them to improve their operations, and these are things that we’re learning in school,” said Watson. “I think it’s important to have a connection between the school and people in the community.”

The club also offers social events and professional development workshops based on club members’ interests. It has already hosted a Marketing and Analytics workshop and is currently running the PBAC Case Competition, which began on Nov. 30 and runs until Dec. 5. The competition challenges student teams to analyze a real startup’s problem and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance at a cash prize.

Gaining experience and making an impact

Watson said she has already received positive feedback from the community partners and the club members.

Mubasshira Khalid, an analyst who is working with South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre on ways to improve programming evaluation services, said she has received valuable analytics experience while working with her community partner.

“From this experience, I have been able to identify the needs of the organization and apply data analysis to a real organization's issue,” she said. “Giving back at a community level is extremely important to me, and, additionally, the opportunity has allowed me to take what I learned in a classroom setting and apply it immediately to a real workplace project.”

Nikhil Sant, who is an analyst on the Eldon House project and serves as the club’s VP of Finance, said he was drawn to the club because he wanted to be able to use his business and analytical skills to make an impact.

“Giving back to the community has always been a key value of mine,” he said. “Being able to help small businesses, non-profits, and community organizations that support marginalized groups has been a really fulfilling experience, especially during the time of the pandemic, when so many organizations have been struggling.”

Mike Fan, an analyst on the EDI project for the MSc Program Office and MSc Association, said he was intrigued by the chance to work on a real-life analytical problem.

“It was a great opportunity to apply my knowledge and technical skills and enhance my skills in teamwork, communication, and leadership,” he said.

Watson said her goal is to ensure the MSc Pro Bono Analytics Club continues long term and she’ll work with the MSc Program Office to help onboard new club executive members for next year.

For more information on the MSc Pro Bono Analytics Club, please contact Watson by email or connect with the club on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.