Students had the chance to network at the GT-IDEA Roundtable and Data Jam
Students from the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, the Kelley School of Business, and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs competed for 10 scholarships as part of the Grant Thornton Institute for Data Exploration for Risk Assessment and Management Roundtable and Data Jam at Luddy Hall Nov. 8, but the real prize wasn’t about money.
It’s about experience.
Sixty students formed into 10 teams tasked with creating a system that would allow users to generate investment advice with environmental, social, and governance considerations for companies. Using real-world data, competitors worked with advisors from Grant Thornton to develop their systems and the various features that would set their systems apart. The teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges and fellow competitors, and one member from each team was selected to receive a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to work on a project for Grant Thornton in spring 2020.
The scholarship was great, but the chance to enjoy an extended interview with Grant Thornton was the real award.
“If you look at it as a selection process to get to more of a full, thorough project with depth for Grant Thornton, it’s incredibly valuable,” said Bryce Himebaugh, a clinical assistant professor of engineering at Luddy and one of the organizers of the event. “We tried to inspire the students and let them connect with people in the business who could identify the people who are going to thrive when there is more time and real data with a real customer.”
Lisa Carrol, a director at Grant Thornton and one of the organizers of the event, was excited by the level of engagement from the competitors.
“We’re really looking forward to the creative ideas and thoughts that the students are going to have on our projects,” Carrol said. “It should be a really exciting opportunity for these students. There are going to be parts that are hard, and there will be parts that will be easy. But what’s important is that the students get a sense of how we work as a team and learn about the approach we take to clients.”
Winners of the competition came from every school. They included Kelley students Aman Sharma, Anna Berry, Danielle Gleason, Louisa Nino, Tarush Bahl, and Zeyi Ni; O’Neill student Michael Broodo; and three students from Luddy, Adolfo Acuna Perez, Bhumika Agrawal, and Sri Harsha Manjunath.
“The whole purpose of this initiative has been to bring together students from Luddy, O’Neill, and Kelley, and the teams were comprised of a mix of students,” said Travis Brown, senior executive assistant dean of innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology commercialization at Luddy and another leader of GT-IDEA. “To my knowledge, we’ve never had something like this across schools. This data jam was intended to be as inclusive as possible. Students are going to have this experience throughout their professional careers where they will be working in a company and need to have cross-disciplinary respect. What Grant Thornton has done is facilitate us working together across campus together in an important way.”
Jack Monger, a senior at Luddy majoring in informatics, was excited by the networking opportunity.
“Being a part of this event has been really great because it’s new,” Monger said. “I’m getting to meet a lot of professionals within the Grant Thornton business, and having team members with different perspectives really helped with the project. Our Kelley teammates brought a business perspective to the room, and the people from O’Neill really showed how the perspectives on ESG could be applied to what we were doing. I contributed my technical expertise, and it was a great experience.”
Jonathan White, a graduate student from O’Neill, was thrilled to work with students from across campus.
“I’m really grateful that the Luddy School hosted this event and brought everyone together,” White said. “With so many people from different backgrounds, the results were a lot better than if it were students who were from one area trying to come up with ideas.”
Nivedita Rao, a junior in informatics studying human-computer interaction, was happy to get a glimpse into a new world.
“I was hoping to get an idea of financial markets and investment, and build an understanding of how people invest,” Rao said. “I had no idea of how any of that worked. I learned about that world, and being able to connect with the people from Grant Thornton allowed me to get some important mentorship that will really be helpful in the future.”
The event also helped inspire some of the participants.
“There was a student who said they had never even considered doing consulting,” Himebaugh said. “He didn’t think he had the right background or didn’t have the right pieces in his skillset to do this kind of work. But then he got a chance to work on the project, and one of the Grant Thornton advisers said, ‘This type of thing may be for you.’ So it was an event where the wheels start to turn for students who can start to see a new career path.”
The partnership with Grant Thornton will continue with a series of roundtables in the spring, including a case competition hosted by Kelley in April 2020.