CEL practicum team works to predict MLS stadium’s effect on St. Louis

Hanze Xu, MSBA’18, contributed this blog post on behalf of the fall 2019 Mastercard practicum team for Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

With the mission of “doing well by doing good,” Mastercard seeks to leverage its rich data resources to make a positive economic and social impact in the communities in which it works.

Tied to the “Data for Good Initiative” established in 2016, Mastercard partners with the Center for Analytics and Business Insights within Washington University in St. Louis on student-led practicum projects that use data from merchant retail locations.

Provided by Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, this aggregated transaction data is intended to drive social-economic insights that will benefit the wider St. Louis community, home to Mastercard’s operations center.

The student project team this year consisted of six graduate students: four in the customer analytics program and two full-time MBA students. The team focused on forecasting economic changes that may result from the anticipated opening of a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis in 2022.

Student members of the Mastercard team, starting from fifth from the left: Phoebe Do, Hanze Xu, Siyi Wang, Sarah Fuller, Yuyun Li, Pamela Chen, Muhammad Hassan.

The team analyzed the impact of two similar MLS stadiums in San Jose and Orlando, which opened in the last four years, and used the results from those analyses to predict potential results for St. Louis.

I was very excited to apply the knowledge and theories learned in class to a real-world event, especially when the project is tied to an exciting upcoming opportunity that the local community is excited about.

By working side by side with the team of faculty advisors—professors Seethu Seetharaman, Michael Wall and Meng Liu—the team has looked through more than 700,000 rows of data, built predictive models, and generated insights about the changing spending patterns associated with the stadiums in three cities.

After three months of hard work, the team successfully completed the analysis using both qualitative research and quantitative model building. The work indicates that the MLS stadiums in comparison cities San Jose and Orlando helped increase overall retail spending in adjacent neighborhood areas, and the same can be expected for St. Louis.

The team gave its final presentation to the Mastercard senior executive team in the first week of December 2019. The team was able to impress the client team with comprehensive analyses and thorough recommendations, which led to a rich discussion of how to make St. Louis a more attractive destination, both for investors and the community.

The team also laid out potential next steps for Mastercard to tactically implement partnerships with the new MLS team and to further bolster the fall 2019 recommendations with further analyses.

The project was a great learning experience and the highlight of my semester. The great combination of MBA and SMP students in a team environment created the perfect conditions for us to learn from each other.

Yuyun Li, Pamela Chen, Muhammad Hassan, Phoebe Do, Siyi Wang, Hanze Xu.

Analytics students learned how to translate the results of models into business insights and communicate them clearly to a client, and the MBA students learned more about the underlying analytics concepts.

We all grew incredibly fast throughout the course of the project, and ultimately delivered strong results for the client. As I am graduating this December, this is also a perfect close to my amazing experience at Olin over the last two years.

Pictured at top: Muhammad Hassan, MBA ’20; Sarah Fuller, MBA ’20 and CEL-fellow; a representative from Mastercard; Michael Wall, CEL/CABI faculty adviser; Phoebe Do, MBA ’20; another client representative; Yuyun Li, MSCA ’19; Pamela Chen, MSCA ’19; another client representative; Hanzu Xu, MSCA ’19; Siyi Wang, MSCA ’19; another client representative; Seethu Seetharaman, CEL/CABI faculty adviser.

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