Data Dragons Competition: How contestants faced the fire

Data Dragons pose for a group photo

Feather boas, fantastic pitches and fiery competition – that’s how U of T’s first Data Dragons Competition played out. On July 5, Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI – ITS) and Planning & Budget welcomed over 120 attendees to watch six dragons critique five business intelligence presentations.

For a tense ten minutes the presenters pitched their ideas, and the panel questioned them about each proposal’s University-wide impact, proof of concept and stakeholder involvement.

“This event was a chance for staff and faculty to bring their innovative, data-driven ideas to the forefront – advancing the overall mission of the University,” says Cathy Eberts, Executive Director of EASI. “I want to thank the team for their hard work in pulling off this event, and all of the contestants who were brave enough to face the panel of judges.”

U of T is quickly becoming a leader in business intelligence, which is the process of analyzing and visualizing data to make fact-based decisions. In addition to the competition, staff can tap into the power of business intelligence through the Institutional Data Hub – a rich repository of data relating to teaching, research and service activities.

The event’s proposals ranged from studying how space is used on campus, what programs of study students are pursuing, how to use artificial intelligence to respond to email, and how to measure faculty members’ impact in clinical teaching and course design.

Andrea Armstrong, Senior Policy Advisor at Enrolment Services, won the competition and is now the proud owner of the 3D-printed dragon’s head trophy. Her proposal was to use internal data to evaluate existing University policies for English language proficiency. Her pitch will be sponsored by EASI and Planning & Budget.

“I’ve always wondered about the fact that our English language proficiency is mainly based on external inputs, and I thought that we could use our extensive in-house data to make sure that the requirements we’re using to admit students are the best fit for the institution,” says Armstrong.

The event was hosted by Robert Jordan, Manager of Business Intelligence and organized by Jordan and Michael Green,  Institutional Data Hub Training & Project Specialist.

“It is incredible to see so much interest and engagement in data-driven decision-making, and to hear such innovative ideas from our colleagues about ways to improve our service to faculty, staff, and students,” says Trevor Rodgers, Assistant Vice-President, Planning & Budget. “I’m already looking forward to hearing more of these great ideas next year.”

And contestants are looking forward to next year as well.

“The experience was great. It was a bit nerve wracking to present to such a large audience, but it was exciting to share what I think is a really great idea that would benefit a lot of students as well as a lot of people across the University,” says Armstrong. “It was great to meet the other pitchers, and I encourage others to take part in the future!”

EASI and Planning & Budget would like to thank all Data Dragons participants:

Judith Chadwick – Assistant Vice-President, Research Services
Cathy Eberts – Executive Director, Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration
Heather Kelly – Senior Director, Student Success
Richard Levin – Executive Director, Enrolment Services and University Registrar
Susan McCahan – Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education and Vice-President, Academic Programs
Trevor Rodgers – Assistant Vice-President, Planning & Budget

Andrea Armstrong – Senior Policy Advisor, Enrolment Services

Anita Chooraman – HR Assistant, Integrated HR, Strategic Initiatives, Division of HR and Equity
Paul Nakonechny – HR Analytics Consultant, Division of HR and Equity

Dr. Kulamakan Kulasegaram – Assistant Professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine
Dr. Risa Freeman – Associate Professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine and Clinician Educator Researcher, Wilson Centre

Joseph Peter McNamara – Resource Planning and Analysis Officer, University of Toronto Scarborough

Mari Motrich – Manager, Systems and Data Analysis, University of Toronto Scarborough