Cool Class: Data Visualization & Business Analytics

September 26, 2022

By J. Charlotte Jarrett ’08

Students and professor gather in the Social Impact Hub to collaborate on a research project.
Photo by Scott Cook.

A trio of business students team up with community partners to provide key insights on the City of Winter Park.

In an immersive independent study course, business management major Chris Barker ’24 and international business majors Nicole Kury ’24 and Casey Recci ’22 joined forces with an outside consultant to create a means of measuring the livability and prosperity of the City of Winter Park.

With the close mentorship of business professor Serina Haddad, along with the guidance of industry partner Janelle Zurek of J. Zurek Analytic Insights, the classmates examined concrete data to create actionable insights that they then shared with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.

As a result, the city gained a clear vision of what makes Winter Park a thriving, vibrant place to live and work while the students garnered essential real-world experience that will help prepare them for their next steps at Rollins and beyond.

Serina Haddad and Janelle Zurek
Photo by Scott Cook.

Instructor & Industry Partners

  • Serina Haddad, assistant professor of business
  • Janelle Zurek, principal consultant, J. Zurek Analytic Insights
  • Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce

The Scoop

“These business students worked with our consultant to create the first Winter Park Prosperity Scorecard,” explains Haddad. “The scorecard aims to define and measure what matters to Winter Park by gathering input from the community and incorporating the framework of environmental, social, and corporate governance.”

The students analyzed free-response questions among 285 survey respondents to hone in on the key considerations for livability. The results identified such top factors as the beauty of the environment, city convenience, leisure options, supportiveness of the community, the professional and educational setting, and culture immersion.

“The students brought a fresh perspective to both the process and the insights gained,” reflects Zurek. “They also analyzed and documented the top needs of the community if there were to be another pandemic event. This information is useful to both the leadership of Winter Park as well as the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce as they continue to evolve their strategies.”

With an eye to these shared values and the social impact of the students’ findings, this collaborative learning experience reflects the global significance of local business.

Business analytics professor and students work on a research project.
Photo by Scott Cook.


We dropped in on the class during one of their research sessions as Haddad and the students were discussing the findings of the thematic data analysis.

“We considered how the results tie to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, and creating sustainable cities and communities,” says Haddad.

Winter Park’s Prosperity Scorecard conveys the ability to cultivate a tangible understanding of measurements that involve people, purpose, and the planet through a substantial amount of survey data. In terms of the findings, students learned how to conduct thematic data analysis, coming to a cohesive agreement on categories to be addressed for a sustainable and prosperous city.

“That enables a rich insight toward the future and necessary steps to prosperity within the Winter Park area,” says Haddad.

Student and professor discuss the impact of their research on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Student Perspective

This pioneering project allowed students not only to gain vital insights into the realm of data visualization and business analytics, but also the opportunity to partner with city stakeholders as they work toward creating real change in the community.

“Collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce helped us feel more comfortable with public speaking and sharing our findings of the study,” says Barker. “The more hands-on we were, the easier presenting was because we understood the concepts and analysis in a deeper way.”

Kury agrees there’s no substitute for hands-on experience, which allows students to learn and grow and apply the skill sets they’re nurturing in the classroom to real-world scenarios.

“Rollins prepares all students to thrive in the professional world, but it wasn’t until taking this course that I realized how much potential that entails,” she says. “With real-life scenarios and tasks, I got to practice every skill I’ve had the chance to cultivate in my time at Rollins.”

For Recci, the benefits of this experience translated into immediate opportunity.

“This course was one of the reasons I got my summer internship at Universal Resort Orlando as a marketing and sales segment strategy intern, which was a big goal of mine,” he says. “My employers directly mentioned my independent study and how they really liked the skills that the project involved, so it was nice to see this work directly have a positive impact.”

Student and professor discussing a research project.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Did You Know?

According to employer survey data compiled by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, 92 percent of employers say it’s important for college graduates to have applied their knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

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