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Penn Students Make Impact with Historic Philadelphia Non-Profit

As part of the spring 2022 Analytics Accelerator, a team of Wharton and Penn Engineering students spent six weeks helping the newly merged Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. identify opportunities to strengthen audience growth and attendance frequency by exploring their combined data.

This project sees two world-famous and historic Philadelphia institutions (Wharton was founded in 1881, The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1900), joining forces.

“It’s super meaningful to me to be able to consult the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc.,” says graduate student, Ryan French, MSE’22. “This organization has such a large cultural impact on the Philadelphia community…it’s so cool being able to walk by the Kimmel Cultural Campus and say ‘I’ve worked with them, I understand what goes on there so much more now.’ Even if I have the smallest impact on what they do and their day-to-day business operations, I take a lot of pride [in that].”

The Analytics Accelerator team poses for a picture on the outdoor balcony at The Kimmel Center. From left: Ryan French, Ashley Clarke, Cynthia Adhiambo, Austin Wang, Yixuan Meng, Andrew Zhang

For a partnership with so much local history, the impact this group of students made provided an encouraging glimpse into the future of data analytics. Led by Ashley Clarke, W’23, the team’s business engagement lead, and French, senior technical analyst, the students identified various patronage journeys through clustering analysis. This allows The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. to better predict the total lifetime value for its customers and donors.

“What’s very exciting about the result of this project is that it will allow us to level up even further from the initial data project that we did with the other cultural institutions,” says Crystal Brewe, chief marketing and audience experience officer at The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. “It will create a modeling that we can actually implement into our CRM system that really allows us to think about the audiences in a much more nuanced and segmented way…they really wowed us with the information that came out of [this project]. The final presentation just absolutely blew me away.”

“It’s inspiring to work with [Penn] students,” says Matías Tarnopolsky, president and chief executive officer of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. “This is the future of our society, and these are smart, engaged people. We’re so grateful for their time and insights.”

“They really wowed us with the information that came out of [this project]. The final presentation just absolutely blew me away.”

– Crystal Brewe, Chief Marketing and Audience Experience Officer, Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc.

Students like Cynthia Adhiambo, BSE’24, who served as the team’s junior technical analyst, benefited most from getting to handle the unmanicured and sometimes messy data that real companies work with. “Up to this point I had not worked with any real-world datasets, and I feel like most of the datasets I had worked with previously [in class] are fabricated to fit the topic that they are trying to teach,” she says. “Having done this project, I feel more confident in what I know. I’ll be doing an internship this summer on analytics. I feel more ready for the internship than before, and I can be actually able to do the analytics and give them meaningful insights despite the fact that I’ll be an intern.”

Other students, like three-time Analytics Accelerator veteran, Clarke, take advantage of the diverse benefits experiential learning programs provide. “Every single Analytics Accelerator, I learned a new skill, a new model, a new way of thinking about data,” she says. “I’m really grateful for this whole experience for not only sparking my interest in data science, but also for helping me learn so many of these techniques.”

“Having done this project, I feel more confident in what I know. I’ll be doing an internship this summer on analytics…and I can be actually able to do the analytics and give them meaningful insights despite the fact that I’ll be an intern.”

– Cynthia Adhiambo, BSE’24

The student team after their final presentation to The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc.

Wharton and The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. look to continue the success they found in this partnership. This year, the organization will collaborate with a new student team, whose unique talents, insights, and skills will help them build upon the initial data study, providing additional benefits and recommendations.

For Eric Bradlow, Vice Dean of Analytics at Wharton and a mentor to the student team, that’s music to his ears. “If you think about it, it’s a win-win for everybody. The students learn, and…the non-profit we’re working with benefits from our skills.”

Analytics Accelerator

A curated multidisciplinary team of Wharton and Penn students, ranging from undergraduates to MBAs, works alongside a Wharton mentor and company champion on an 8-week project to explore real-world business challenges using real company datasets and the latest analytics techniques, including machine learning and AI.

Accelerators occur during the fall and spring semesters and are typically planned six months in advance. Click the links below to learn more.