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White FHU Logo

For the second consecutive year, Freed-Hardeman University’s analytics team has won one of three major awards during DataFest, an elite data competition held regionally. The latest win took place at Loyola University in Chicago Friday, April 21, through Sunday, April 23, 2023.

FHU’s team was recognized for Best Data Visualization in the competition. The team members include Coy Baker, a senior business analytics and math major from Burlington, Kentucky; Erika Bennett, a senior accounting and marketing major from Fairbanks, Alaska; Aidan Harrison, a freshman business analytics major from Chattanooga, Tennessee; Grant Hunter, a senior math major from South Mims, Florida; and Lou Joseph, a junior computer science major from Orlando, Florida. The students competed against five other teams from across the region.

Only three awards are given at each DataFest with no second or third places. The other awards are given to teams for Best Insight and Best Use of External Data. In their first competition in 2022, the team members sponsored by the FHU College of Business won honors for Best Insight at the Washington D.C. DataFest. The American Statistical Association hosts the events at colleges throughout the United States. Groups of as many as five undergraduates receive a complex, real-world dataset on Friday evening and have until Sunday morning to analyze it and present it to judges with expertise in data science.

At this year’s competition, judges applauded the FHU team’s graphic. It showed the results of a sentiment analysis that included interactive elements and word clouds to visualize the most positive and negative words a machine learning model identified from the dataset.

“It generated a bunch of questions for me, which is exactly what a good data visualization does,” Abby Smith said. She served as a judge and holds a doctorate in statistics from Northwestern University. “It gets the brain moving and flowing, and you guys really did that.”

Charlie Smith, instructor in the FHU College of Business, and Dr. Jared Collins, associate professor of mathematics, served as faculty advisors.

“Our DataFest victories demonstrate once again that our students have the ability, work ethic and academic foundation from Freed-Hardeman to compete with their peers from larger universities throughout the nation,” Smith said. “They put in a lot of hours and are really committed to excellence. It’s great to see outside judges recognize the quality of work they do.”

DataFests are held regionally, and none are currently held in Tennessee. The long-term goal is for Freed-Hardeman to host one in Henderson, Smith said.

For more information about the FHU business analytics program, individuals can visit fhu.edu/academics/colleges/business/analytics or email csmith@fhu.edu.

The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers associates, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees.