University of Southern California

USC Marshall graduate students excel in first annual analytics competition
March 9, 2016 • by News at Marshall

Students from the USC Marshall Master’s in Business Analytics (MSBA) program and the Marshall Data Analytics Club (MDAC) took part in the first annual Datathon Competition on Sat., March 5 on the USC campus, giving graduate level students a chance for hands-on experience from entertainment industry leaders. The competition was inspired by a similar event for undergraduates last fall.

More than 50 participants were divided into 12 four- to five-member teams comprised of Marshall MBA students, who served as business analysts, and MSBA students, who served as data analysts.

“We wanted students with expertise in various business functionalities to work closely with data analytic students to give everyone a taste of what’s being done in the industry,” said Abbass Sharif, assistant professor of clinical data sciences and operations and the academic director of the M.S. in Business Analytics program. “I’m proud to say that Marshall graduate business students brought skills to the floor that really impressed our judges.”

Students analyzed movie market research provided by competition partner Paramount Pictures that morning. Teams had just five hours to review a massive cache of data from 2012-14 and build a predictive model that forecast the performance of movies released in 2015.

They presented before a panel of judges that included three members from Marshall’s Data Sciences and Operations faculty, including professors Sharif, Arif Ansari and Robertas Gabrys, as well as members of the Worldwide Market Intelligence department of Paramount Pictures.

Crunching the Numbers

Teams were winnowed down to three finalists that advanced to the concluding round that afternoon, with the winning groups announced during an award ceremony presented by Jeremy Enos, senior VP/Worldwide Market Intelligence, Paramount Pictures, Inc., that evening.

Finishing first was Team “L” with members Sunny Duggal, Tiana Gao, Zoe Huang, Carlene Jones, and Manoj Sundar.

Team “F,” made up of Lisa Cheng, Daniel Ho, Bali Lu, Abhigna Mandavilli, and Michel Chen Zou, took second. Team “I” consisting of Yingqian Chen, Aqua Fulara. Luou Meng, and Mining Xu rounded out the top three.


Underscoring the real-world focus of the contest, winning team members will be invited to Paramount in early April for lunch and to present their predictive model to senior executives. They will also take part in first-round interviews for a summer internship at Paramount, which will give them the chance to put the model they built into action.

“This event was a great success all around,” said Sharif. “But in particular because of the dedication and hard work of our faculty and student volunteers.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.