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2021 Year in Review

This has been an exciting year for Analytics at Wharton (AAW). From moving into our new home at 37th and Spruce to hosting more than 50 industry events and student programs to supporting 43 faculty and their trailblazing research. In honor of our prolific year, we have curated highlights from across AAW.

Cube iconNew This Year

CSS Lab logoComputational Social Science for Business

In September 2021, Computational Social Science (CSS) for Business became AAW’s eighth program. Led by Wharton faculty Ducan Watts and Dean Knox, CSS for Business unites computer science, statistics, and social science to solve challenging real-world problems. The initiative’s growth was made possible by a new leadership gift from Richard Jay Mack, W’89, which supports the expansion of the Penn Media Accountability Project (PennMAP), an interdisciplinary, nonpartisan research project dedicated to enhancing media transparency and accountability. Read more >>

headshot of professor Dean KnoxWharton Professor Dean Knox Receives the Inaugural NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award

The lack of progress in identifying and addressing the racial disparities in law enforcement stems in part from inconsistent record-keeping and misleading statistical analyses of incomplete data, according to Dean Knox, the winner of the inaugural NOMIS & Science Young Explorer Award. His prize-winning essay illustrates the value of applying new tools and statistical techniques to imperfect data to reveal the extent and severity of racial bias in policing. Full story >>

Wharton Online logoAI For Business Specialization Launches on Coursera

In November 2021, Wharton Online and Wharton AI for Business (AIB) launched AI for Business, a four-course specialization on Coursera. This course provides an opportunity to hear from top Wharton faculty, including Kartik Hosanagar and Prasanna (Sonny) Tambe, AIB faculty co-leads, and learn how to develop a deployment strategy for machine learning and big data that takes advantage of cutting-edge technologies. Course homepage >>

Sonny Tambe head shotPrasanna (Sonny) Tambe Joins Wharton AI for Business as Faculty Co-Lead

Wharton AI for Business (AIB) welcomed Prasanna (Sonny) Tambe, associate professor of operations, information and decisions, as the newest member of its senior leadership. Working alongside faculty co-lead Kartik Hosanagar, John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business and Professor of Marketing, Professor Tambe guides AIB in its mission to help students and professionals expand their knowledge and application of machine learning while understanding the business and societal implications of AI.

WRDS LogoWharton Research Data Services Reaches New Milestones

In 2021, Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) launched hundreds of unique, WRDS-developed applications, programs, classroom tools, and learning pathways to support instructors, researchers, and librarians. WRDS reached two milestones this year, welcoming its 500th global subscriber and reaching 1,400,000 downloads on SSRN. WRDS at a glance >>

Human icon with three stars above headThe Next Generation of Analytics Leaders

AAW Student Spotlights

Group Photo of Students from the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program

Ileri Akinnola

Ileri Akinnola (far left) is one of two recipients of the inaugural Applied Neuroscience and Business Analytics Summer Undergraduate Internship for Underrepresented Students. Ileri spent 10 weeks this summer working on forthcoming marketing research that uses Netflix viewing data to examine how psychological makeup influences the movies people choose to watch. Read more >>

Keshav Ramji, W’24 EAS’24

Keshav Ramji, W’24 EAS’24, (bottom left) and his Analytics Accelerator teammates spent seven weeks this fall analyzing and modeling Zillow’s data to help the online real estate company better understand how website visitors engage with their platform. Making his second Accelerator appearance, Keshav served as a senior analyst. Read more >>

Analytics Accelerator Zillow Team

Putting Skills to the Test

graphic of football player

The Best Defense is a Good Data Set: Wharton Students Named Finalists in the NFL Big Data Bowl

How can NFL teams utilize data to improve their defense? This is the question a team of Wharton students sought to answer when they entered this year’s NFL Big Data Bowl, a competition that encourages members of the analytics community to come up with innovative ways the NFL can use their high dimensional tracking data. Zach Drapkin, W’22, Sarah Hu, W’23, and Ryan Gross, former teaching assistants for Moneyball Academy through the Wharton Sports Analytics and Business Initiative, and Zach Bradlow, W’22, a former Moneyball Academy student, teamed up to analyze datasets from the 2018 season in order to measure defensive performance against passing plays. Read more >>

WPA Case Competition

Wharton People Analytics (WPA) partnered with Teach for America (TFA) for the 2021 Case Competition. Thirty student teams from across the globe analyzed real data to help TFA optimize its corps matching process for placement acceptance and successful corps experiences. Congratulations to the winning team NIT-K, Undergraduate Students at National Institute of Technology Karnataka!

screenshot of Felix and AIB Zoom meeting

AI for Business Invests in Wharton Startup, Félix, Through the Venture Lab Startup Challenge

Technology is a critical component of Félix, a chat-based platform for sending money from the United States to Mexico that will launch later this year. However, founders Bernardo Garcia, WG’21, and Manuel Godoy, WG’21, believe trust in the product is just as essential. Read more >>

Learning by Doing

Analytics Accelerator

Every fall and spring semester, Wharton Customer Analytics hosts the Analytics Accelerator, an experiential learning program that pairs students with a company to solve a real-world business problem using the company’s actual datasets and the latest techniques including machine learning and AI. In the Spring of 2021, participating companies included McDonald’s and Fox Entertainment. In Fall 2021, participating companies included Lidl US, Master Kong, and Zillow.

Case Studies

McDonald's Case Study
FOX case study


Wharton Customer Analytics hosted its first co-enrolled datathon with corporate partner Fulton Bank where employees and Penn students worked together for one week to analyze real-world data, create implementable solutions to an actual business problem, and compete for cash prizes. Five business groups were represented (commercial, consumer, finance, HR, and operations), each project presenting a unique business challenge. Learn more >>

Fulton Bank Logo

three human figures iconAt the Intersection of Industry and Academia

Women in Data Science @ Penn LogoWomen in Data Science @ Penn Conference

The University of Pennsylvania was proud to host the second annual (first virtual) Women in Data Science (WiDS) @ Penn Conference on February 8-12, 2021. Over the course of the week, nearly 500 registrants had access to academic and industry talks, live speaker Q&A sessions, and networking opportunities in the virtual Gather.Town conference space. This year’s theme – This is What a Data Scientist Looks Like – emphasized the diversity of data science, both in subject matter and personnel. A celebrated interdisciplinary event, WiDS @ Penn welcomed academic and industry speakers from across the data science landscape. Full recap >>

Association of National Advertisers logoHow to Leverage AI to Mitigate Risk, Discover Product Innovations, & Measure ROI

In March 2021, Wharton Customer Analytics and AI for Business co-hosted a half-day virtual conference with the Association of National Advertisers to discuss how the latest advances in AI and analytics are helping to incubate innovation, evaluate social listening, and manage marketing assets more efficiently in a time of unprecedented disruption. Wharton professors Raghu Iyengar and Kartik Hosanagar as well as industry experts from leading companies like McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Fox Entertainment, and American Express shared insights into leveraging AI and analytics to mitigate risk, discover product innovations, and measure ROI. Watch sessions >>

Wharton People Analytics Conference Logo8th Annual Wharton People Analytics Conference

The 8th Annual Wharton People Analytics Conference was held on April 16, 2021. Making its fully virtual debut, the flagship event set a new attendance record and featured all-star speakers Ray Dalio, Katie Ledecky, Oris Stuart, and Kara Swisher. Watch your favorite speaker >>

Wharton Annual Analytics Conference LogoAnnual Analytics Conference

In partnership with Analytics at Wharton and AI for Business, Wharton Customer Analytics hosted the Annual Analytics Conference virtually on May 3-7, 2021. Industry leaders – including keynote speaker Jamie Moldafsky, WG’89, chief marketing and communications officer of Nielsen – spoke about the latest trends in business analytics, data science, and AI. More than 540 business professionals, academics, and members of the Penn community registered for this week-long virtual event. Many tuned in for live talks and technical workshops which emphasized that, with the right tools and strategic vision, data-focused professionals can move from siloed analytics to impactful action. Full recap >>

Vulnerability, Authenticity, and Trust Series

Zoom screenshot from VAT podcast, ep. 1

How Neuroscience Can Help Build a Better Workplace

This fall, the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative launched a new series that focuses on vulnerability, authenticity, and trust in individual, team, and organizational performance from diverse perspectives. The goal of the series is to explore how managers can use teachings from neuroscience to create workspaces that offer psychological safety and feelings of connectedness. Read more >>

Beyond Business: Humanizing ESG

Why Diversity, Wage Inequality, and Workers Rights Deserve Our Attention

The COVID crisis has further emphasized the inequalities between different professions, classes, racial groups, and nationalities. Witold J. Henisz, Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management and founder of the Wharton ESG Analytics Lab joined Dean Erika James to discuss how the industry can minimize harm and be a positive force in addressing these challenges. Read more >>

Human head icon with gear insideTrailblazing Research

US currency Penn Wharton Budget Model Projects the Economic Effects of President Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Plan

In February 2021, PWBM released an analysis which estimated that three provisions in the Biden COVID relief plan—direct payments, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit—together would cost $595 billion in calendar year 2021, with 99 percent of households in the bottom 80 percent of incomes receiving a benefit. Read more >>

Team DiscussionAre Teams or Individuals Better at Getting Work Done?

When it comes to getting work done, two heads are better than one. Except when they aren’t. A new study from Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions Duncan Watts digs into the question of whether it’s better for employees to work in teams or alone — and the answer may be surprising for managers trying to figure out the best way to assign tasks. Read more >>

AAW Funded Research

Spring 2021

An Automated Solution to Causal Inference in Discrete Settings

Dean Knox, Assistant Professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions
Rachel Mariman, Research Project Manager 

The goal of this project is to create a tool to automate causal inference from incomplete or imperfect data. This tool will reach a broad audience of applied researchers across the social and medical sciences by developing an easy-to-use front-end interface and implement more efficient back-end optimizations. In addition, the project will create a series of data applications to illustrate its ease of use. This project is funded by AI for Business.

The Elasticity of Taxable Income

Benjamin Lockwood, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy

This project seeks to characterize and advertise a new statistical method for estimating the elasticity of taxable income in the presence of optimization frictions.

The Identification of Judgmental Forecasting Techniques

Philip Tetlock, Professor of Management
Dillon Bowen, Doctoral Candidate of Operations, Information, and Decisions

This project will compare the effectiveness of many judgmental forecasting techniques on a standard set of forecasting tasks, delivering a concise list of highly effective techniques and recommended best practices.

The Impact of an Experiential Learning Pathway on Knowledge Application and the Relevance to Future Employment Opportunities

Raghu Iyengar, Miers-Busch, W’1885 Professor; Professor of Marketing; Faculty Director, Wharton Customer Analytics
Nicole Wang Trexler, Associate Director of Data Science and Research

This project conducts a quasi-experimental research study to gain an in-depth look at how an experiential learning pathway impacts students’ informal learning journey. This information will help WCA design and deploy better experiential learning pathways to better serve the students at Wharton and within the Penn community.

Measuring the Narratives of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Duncan Watts, Stevens University Professor of Computer and Information Science, Communication, and Operations, Information and Decisions
Baird Howland, PhD Student, Annenberg School of Communication, Computational Social Science Lab at Penn,
Valery Yakubovich, Executive Director, Computational Social Science Lab at Penn

The goal of this project is to study our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic – the remarkably varied conceptions of what is happening, why it is happening, and what should be done in response, with a rare combination of quantitative rigor and qualitative depth.

Unmasking Sex Trafficking Supply Chains with Machine Learning

Hamsa Bastani, Assistant Professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions
Pia Ramchandani, Doctoral Candidate of Operations, Information, and Decisions

In collaboration with the Tellfinder Alliance for Global Counter-Human Trafficking, this project will leverage unstructured, massive deep web data from leading adult-services websites using a novel machine learning framework to construct the first global network view of sex trafficking supply chains.

Wharton Forensic Analytics Lab Data Case Series

Dan Taylor, Associate Professor of Accounting

This five-part case series will highlight recent accounting frauds (e.g., Wirecard, Luckin Coffee, etc.) and how each of the frauds could have been detected using business analytics.

Fall 2021

The Effect of Workplace and Economic Stress on Health Outcomes

Marius Guenzel, Assistant Professor of Finance

The goal of this project is to empirically study the effect of workplace and economic stress on health outcomes including aging and mortality.

The Wharton/Columbia Management, Analytics, and Data (M.A.D.) Conference

Natalie Carlson, Assistant Professor of Management

This project supports the launch of the initial Wharton/Columbia Management, Analytics, and Data (M.A.D.) Conference. The conference is created to bring together academics working to understand the role of data and analytics in shaping managerial practice and the determinants of firm performance.

Wharton Undergraduate Capstone Course: Federal and State Management of the Pandemic

Robert P. Inman, Richard King Mellon Professor Emeritus of Finance; Professor Emeritus of Business Economics & Public Policy

This project uses data collection for a student-led evaluation of the health and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effectiveness of national and state-wide policy responses to contain the coronavirus and to mitigate its health and economic consequences. The format for this evaluation will be a Capstone Course (BEPP 401) entitled, Federal and State Management of the Pandemic: Money, Messages, Vaccinations, and State Policies.

Network iconIn the News

CDO Magazine Announces Its 2021 List of Leading Academic Data Leaders

January 28, 2021

CDO Magazine names Vice Dean of Analytics Eric T. Bradlow among its 2021 list of leading academic data leaders in the field of…

January 31, 2021

Don’t try to change someone else’s mind. Instead, help them find their own motivation to change. A few years ago, I made the mistake of…

The Role of Officer Race and Gender in Police-Civilian Interactions in Chicago

February 12, 2021

In the wake of high-profile police shootings of Black Americans, it is important to know whether the race and gender of officers and civilians affect their…

Nielsen CMO Jamie Moldafsky on Data as a Force For Good

May 4, 2021

On the occasion of Wharton’s Annual Analytics Conference, keynote speaker and Wharton MBA Alum Jamie Moldafsky presented…

Perspective Taking: A Brain Hack That Can Help You Make Better Decisions

May 22, 2021

In business and in life, many of our interactions benefit from perspective taking, or our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes…

How to Optimize Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

June 11, 2021

Omnichannel marketing seems like a simple enough concept. Consumers like to shop online, offline, and across different channels…

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Would Cut U.S. Debt and Slightly Increase Economic Growth, Wharton Study Finds

June 30, 2021

A bipartisan infrastructure deal reached by President Joe Biden and a group of senators would not only add to economic growth, but also…

When a 59% Annual Return Just Isn’t Enough

July 2, 2021

Optimism is as American as hot dogs and apple pie. Too much optimism, though, is about as good for you as eating a few dozen hot dogs and slices of pie. In a recent survey of 750…

Corporate Taxes Increasingly Seen as Social Obligation

August 2, 2021

Investors interested in how companies meet environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards are also becoming increasingly…

An Expert on Hiring Bias Weighs in on Jeopardy!‘s Mike Richards Controversy

September 15, 2021

When Jeopardy! announced in August that executive producer Mike Richards would take over as the show’s permanent host, many viewers…

Most Americans Today Believe the Stock Market Is Rigged, and They’re Right

September 29, 2021

Jimmy Filler made his considerable wealth buying and selling scrap metal in Birmingham, Ala. Now approaching 80 and mostly retired from…

ESPN and Fox Bet on Sports Wagering. But Will They Go All In?

October 11, 2021

Television sports used to acknowledge betting on games with a wink and a nod. Veteran sportscaster Brent Musburger was known for…

The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Leaving Many Americans Wondering: Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Early?

October 26, 2021

It’s been drilled into Americans that a mortgage is good debt, a liability that shouldn’t give you pause, even after you retire…

The Future of Business

October 27, 2021

Artificial intelligence is transforming virtually every sector, and in the process, raising urgent questions about how to use this technology effectively and…

2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups

December 6, 2021

Wharton startup Félix named to Poets and Quants’ 2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups. Félix, a chat-based platform that…