Bootcamp Data Analytics: Football table and statistics

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By: Eliana Chow

For the third year in a row, Jenkins’ new Master of Accounting (MAC) students jumped straight into the world of data analytics with an intensive week-long training camp. Due to NC State’s ongoing COVID-19 guidelines, the program took place online, with faculty and students interacting on Zoom. In this virtual space, students learned to display data using a clever combination of creativity and math across multiple software platforms.

Designed to familiarize students with popular data analysis and visualization technologies used in the industry, the boot camp is part of an ongoing effort to integrate a strong data analysis component into the curriculum of accounting from NC State’s Poole College of Management.

Introducing a new toolkit

Each day of the bootcamp, the accounting professors gave a presentation focusing on a different aspect of data analysis. The students then split into teams to carry out case studies related to the conference or the lab of the day. Professors were also available during project hours to provide advice and answer questions.

The bootcamp aims to achieve several complementary goals, according to Jim Scalise, a practice professor in the accounting department. “We want students to hone their analytical skills, using tools to support these conclusions, and develop communication skills to convey this information,” he says. “This is essential as they make the transition to the MAC program and their future professional responsibilities. A qualified accountant in any industry is able to communicate their analysis and implications to key managers, decision makers and other stakeholders.

At this year’s bootcamp, Scalise taught a module on Tableau, a data visualization software that allows users to organize and analyze various data sets in a wide range of available formats, including line charts, bar charts and geographic maps. Tableau is particularly useful in an academic setting, because students can learn to use the tool’s predefined functions without any prior knowledge of computer programming, Scalise explains. “Regardless of their technical background, we have the chance to present something to students that will most definitely benefit them in their careers,” he says.

To develop an introductory understanding of Tableau, students were tasked with organizing, analyzing, and visualizing NC State Wolfpack football statistics. After Scalise set the stage with a lecture, complemented by interactive examples, the students split into their assigned groups and put their new skills to use.

Key points to remember

“Exploring the program alongside my peers gave me a new appreciation for the myriad ways you can shape data,” says Callie Adams, MAC ’22. One of his main lessons from the module was how analysts can draw dramatically different conclusions about the same group of topics depending on how they organize and visualize the available data. For example, a soccer player’s performance rating can fluctuate depending on whether their stats are measured month-to-month or year-to-year.

Adams expresses her gratitude for the bootcamp for giving her a head start in her MAC program as she prepares to take all four parts of the CPA exam. “Before coming to the bootcamp, I had never used Excel other than to sort data,” she shares. “Thanks to the Tableau lab, in particular, it has been rewarding to tackle new ways of shaping data that I know will set me apart as I advance in my tax career.

According to Scalise, exposing students to data analytics early on provides them with a more comprehensive toolkit for tackling the rise of digital technologies in the profession. As the academic year continues, he plans to incorporate other concepts from the Tableau lab into his classes. “At the end of the day, my biggest desire is for my students to succeed,” he says. “As we continue to develop and refine the bootcamp program, I hope we can continue to instill confidence in our students around these technologies so that they are equipped to help their businesses succeed. “


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