SUNY Fredonia hosts new business conference

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford About 185 people attended SUNY Fredonia’s inaugural International Business Analytics Conference.

SUNY Fredonia hosted its first ever International Business Analytics Conference for academic and industry professionals Friday and Saturday.

“This conference aims to minimize the gap between the industry and academics,” SUNY Fredonia School of Business Dean Kaustav Misra said. “Inviting these economics practitioners and academic scholars is going to help bring the knowledge to the classroom to help teach them well in business analytics, which is what the world is about at this point.”

Misra chaired the SUNY Fredonia committee that organized the conference. He said about 185 people attended, including scholars from universities around the U.S. and Canada, “industry folks from various parts of the country,” and SUNY Fredonia alumni and students.

The conference’s sessions, discussions and seminars “welcomed submissions on a wide range of topics related to research and current industry use of business or data analytics,” according to the brochure.

The Friday luncheon keynote speaker was Karl Holz, a SUNY Fredonia graduate who held several high-raning positions during 22 years working for the Walt Disney Co. The conversational format had School of Business student Paige Baumgartner asking him a series of questions. Holz then took queries from the audience.

OBSERVER Photos by M.J. Stafford Karl Holz, Friday luncheon keynote speaker at the SUNY Fredonia International Business Analytics Conference (right), chats with SUNY Fredonia School of Business student Paige Baumgartner.

He said of SUNY Fredonia, “This is a very nurturing experience where you come out of here with not only a career but also a masters in social learning. This is where you grow up, for many people are here.”

Holz said Disney “is all about storytelling.” When he asked what its No. 2 priority is, someone said, “Profit.” Holz responded, “Storytelling.”

While the company is “absolutely focused” on building shareholder value, it wants to succeed in “ethical, satisfying” ways that “don’t damage the trust and integrity we have,” he said.

Holz ran Disney’s cruise ship line and said the entire customer experience “is driven by questions related to content.” Both passengers and employees are comprehensively surveyed and Disney encourages responses.

There are “thousands of sensor points on cruise ships to understand where guests are, how machinery is operating.” For example, “every single cylinder” of gigantic cruise ship engines has temperature gauges. All guests can be tracked with a wearable band or through their cell phones.

All of that offers important data for Disney. However, Holz warned, “Even when you have data and try to use data, don’t lose sight of the delivery point.” An important side of using data is “teaching people an animated, sincere authentic fashion” of presenting it.

Holz returned to speaking about SUNY Fredonia near the end of his remarks. “The university is well positioned for success,” he said. “It’s one of many university systems under assault these days for a variety of different reasons.”

He said “students in this institution appear to have a sense of purpose… They are focused, they are direct, they want something out of this.”


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