It did not take long for one of John Chambers College of Business and Economics’ newest programs to demonstrate its value in serving West Virginia University’s land-grant mission by stepping up to help the state in a time of critical need.
Data Driven WV launched just one year ago as the brainchild of Business Data Analytics students, faculty and alumni. It was operationalized by Dr. Brad Price, Dariane Drake and Katherine Kopp, who all connected with its mission of supporting the technology infrastructure and resources to provide Business Data Analytics students with the opportunity to apply their data analytic skills to real-world experiences.
But it soon proved useful in a way the Data Driven WV team couldn’t have imagined when the world was engulfed in its most serious pandemic in a century.
The West Virginia National Guard coordinated with the team this spring, using its data models to project how much personal protective equipment (PPE) to send to hospitals throughout West Virginia as severe shortages exacerbated the crisis in more densely populated states.
“You don’t want to build this with something like a global pandemic in mind,” Price said. “But when all of this came up, one of the goals was to be able to help the state of West Virginia with problems with data and technology.”
“It’s really helped corporations and communities in the state with problems, and this fits that mold. When this problem came up, this fits what (Data Driven WV) is for.”
Data Driven WV did not come up short in its projections. As a result, the West Virginia National Guard presented Price and his team with its Civilian Service Achievement medal.
The team’s work met the medal’s criteria of “rendering professional or public relations service that resulted in considerable favorable publicity in the local area” and “demonstrating courage or competence in an emergency while performing assigned duties resulting in benefit to the Government or its personnel.”
To say the least, the honor caught the Data Driven WV team off-guard.
“While it’s amazing and very much appreciated, the award was unexpected because that’s just the culture of who we are and what this group is about,” Price said. “That is the culture of WVU. We step up and help the state.”
Kopp was grateful to have the ability to make a tangible difference in helping West Virginia stave off the level of crisis experienced in New York City this April.
“It’s a great honor,” Kopp said. “The timing of this project came about when everybody was looking around thinking ‘What can I do to help with this pandemic?’ Not just across the college or across the state, but across the country.”
“You saw people going home and finding ways to sew masks. I don’t sew, so that wasn’t going to work for me. It was like ‘OK, this is how I can use my skills to make an impact?’ To help our state get ahead of the curve so we didn’t end up in the same situation we saw in New York where they just didn’t have enough PPE… I was able to use my skills in a way to help a lot of people.”
For Drake, the project drove home the importance of the work that is part of their mission.
“It’s humbling to realize that when what you do every day has the ability to really help people,” said Drake. “It’s an honor, but the best feeling is knowing that we made a difference in our state.”
Maj. Ryan Coss, who works at Mylan Pharmaceuticals in addition to serving as an adjunct professor in the College of Business, explained why their work was so important.
“Having good forecasting tools is a critical asset for our public health officials to have in order to help West Virginia mitigate and hopefully control the spread and negative impacts of COVID-19,” Coss said. “Working with our partners at the Chambers College has been an incredible opportunity and shows the utmost importance of maximizing resources and brainpower from across the whole of government to power our response efforts.”
Price, Kopp and Drake emphasized that students have played a major role in compiling the data, and are also deserving of credit.
“Everything is ‘team’ in our field,” Price said. “It’s about getting our students experience. A lot of it was the three of us early on, but we have figured out how to engage students at this point as much as we can.”
The Data Driven team continues to send a 100-day forecast to the National Guard each Thursday, and will continue to do so as long as needed.
Price hopes that isn’t too long.
“I think everybody will be extremely happy,” Price noted, “when we don’t have to send these out anymore, because that will mean we’re on the other side of this pandemic.”
CONTACT: Heather Richardson, Assistant Dean of Communications
John Chambers College of Business and Economics
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