Bryant University Analytics Without Borders


Analytics without Borders is a joint conference with Bryant University and Bentley University. It started last year, was hosted by Bryant this year for its 2nd event, and will continue next year at Bentley, then alternate every year. There were many topics and speakers from Chief Analytics Officer at Epsilon to executives at Fidelity & SAS. Workshops and presentations included information on financial forecasting, using python for finance, and more.

Bryant’s very own Jake Schurch, triple concentration in Computer Information Systems, Applied Analytics, and Finance, tutor and creator of the AA/CIS Lab, and upcoming summer intern at Ernst & Young helped inspire students who may not be as computer savvy with his presentation on ‘Using Python to Convert Tabular Data into Network Structures.’ Researching over the summer with Dr. Mentzer, he was able to strengthen his programming skills and recognize nodes, edges, and weights and also to be able to measure nodes’ gubernatorial power.

Among the speakers was Ren Cheng, Senior Research Consultant – GAA Fidelity. He served many different roles in his career and is now a leader in Fidelity’s global asset allocation division. He talked about rational consensus building, from individual intelligence to group think. The decision making process is inherently a group dynamic in today’s society, and while individuals are rational, groups are not. A problem he mentioned is that every organization wants diverse people and diverse opinions, and they hate groupthink which he labeled as “dangerous stuff.” So how are these two compatible, when an organization wants different opinions, however in order to move forward they need some form of consensus but that can’t happen in the tunnel vision way of groupthink. He mentioned over and over, “how can we aggregate information without any loss?” People in the world are still splitting themselves in a dichotomous manner as we have seen through the tyranny of the majority and the failures in democracies when they rely on plurality voting.

Ken Arrow the youngest Nobel Prize recipient in Economics used mathematical logic to prove that the perfect voting solution does not exist. This was the prevalent postulation of the academic community until the 1990s in which they found his underlying assumption was faulty. He assumed independence of all variables, not entertaining the notion that they may be dependent.  Levi Strauss talked about how humans inherently wish to divide the world in a binary fashion, which led us to the problem of binomial choices. He led us into the solution; the way to fully aggregate information is to tier things, and to take a page out of De Borda’s book. Specific numerical weighting method given N possible choices N-1 equals 1st N-2 equals 2nd and so one. Most of the logarithmic concepts we make today come from the ingenuity of Borda. He then went on to talk about the application of this in his career in which many analysts and associates spent a collective of 1,000+ hours to rank stocks, an MIT ad hoc method – but he was able to do their work cleaner in a matter of minutes with the Borda count. Work smart, not hard, as the old adage goes.

Some students are anxious about programming but there are plenty of resources out there outside of Bryant professors and students. Blogs, YouTube, Udacity, Codeacademy, StackExchange, & more. Students specifically interested in programming in Python or in need of a tutor for general coding and theory are urged to reach out to Jake Schurch.