MMA Gives: Leveraging data analytics to scale training, guidance and funding to African international students

McGill Desautels annual MMA Gives campaign gives non-profits, SMEs and NGOs the opportunity to take advantage of data expertise from our Master of Management in Analytics (MMA) students, to help meet their analytics goals.

A prime example of this is the Mastercard Foundation (MCF) Transitions Project right here at McGill. Initiated in 2020, the Transitions Project builds on the McGill MCF Scholars Program. Designed to provide scholarships for talented African students who show commitment to leadership and philanthropy, the MCF Scholars Program began at the university in 2013. The current cohort of scholars features 53 students from 16 different nations, across 9 faculties or schools within the university.

Dr. Nii AddyDr. Nii Addy, a former Assistant Professor (Research) at McGill Desautels and the current Associate Director (Africa Outreach)/Senior Outreach Advisor in the office of the Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning (DPSLL), submitted his project proposal to the MMA program in 2021. The proposal drew upon prior work by MMA students in 2020. The goal? To build a database and develop tools to inform decision makers within McGill and the MCF (Mastercard Foundation) Scholars program, allowing them to provide adequate support to the Mastercard Scholars, and by extension, other African international students.

Maguette PayeThe program was paired with Maguette Paye (MMA’21), who was more than thrilled to take on the project.

“It was my top choice, because it was a project that combined two things that I'm very passionate about: data analytics, but also, international development toward Africa, the continent I am from,” Paye said.

Addy noted that one of the major challenges that the MCF Transitions Project faced, as a new initiative at McGill was the lack of organized data once Scholars graduate, to inform his team which aids in the Scholars’ transition out of the program and into the workforce.

“We started with different Excel sheets gathered from various sources floating around all over the place, and there were questions about, you know, how do we even conceptualize some of this,” Dr. Addy explained. “Our end goal was having a dashboard, where we can look at the data and analyze which alumni are engaging in internships, who’s doing professional development and what are the supports that they need, as they seek employment or engage in entrepreneurship.”

Addy commended Paye for being able to come in and build the Access database from the ground up. Not only did she come in with a lot of knowledge and expertise, but she also was able to adapt quickly and pick up new skills as the project progressed, he added.

What’s great about the MMA Gives projects versus the corporate capstone projects the students complete over 10 months in the program, is that it’s a final opportunity to put everything that they’ve learned over their time in the program into practice with a clear goal.

“It’s more pragmatic,” Paye explained, “You have this goal, and you have shorter amount of time, and you want to deliver. I could conceptualize the full picture in my head and work at implementing it with the knowledge I gathered throughout the full MMA Program. The Community Capstone scheduled at the end of the Program; I could use everything I’ve learned.”

With support from the McGill MCF Transition Project team and her MMA coach, Paye was successful in laying the groundwork and developing the database and dashboard.

“The communication was so good, we were very often having touch points and [the MCF Transition Project team] was really helping me to understand their pain points and how I could possibly assist with what I've learned,” Paye said. "That aspect of the project was really fundamental.”

The great thing about this experience for the MCF Transitions Project, Addy said, is that the team can build further on the use of data analytics to meet the needs of Scholars and alumni.

“Everything that we have so far in terms of the structure, conceptualizing it, also thinking a bit more about what kinds of tools to use and the interface, all of that front end and back end, all of that she worked on,” said Addy. “And then I subsequently have a research assistant, who's been building upon that work. I actually just submitted another proposal to the MMA, and hopefully, we'll have somebody else to continue working with us. From my experiences with students over the years, I am a big believer in the contributions of experiential projects such as MMA Gives in simultaneously developing students and addressing practical challenges.”

For Paye, the best part of the experience was getting involved with a program that has goals that align with her own passions and values, but she can’t ignore the application of what she learned throughout the project in her day to day as an Omnia AI Consultant with Deloitte.

“I got to learn a lot about the organization of the McGill MCF Transitions Project and gather all this information about the challenges that they can have in terms of data,” she said. "When it comes to technology consulting, requirement gathering is so important and major, it’s the beginning of everything. I got to really train on that and see something I’m doing every day in all the projects that and on top of the [technical] skills I was able to develop, [I also learned] database management and data governance.”

Overall, it was a successful partnership for both Paye and Addy’s MCF Transitions Project team.

“It's been vital. Without the work she did, we’d not have the capacity needed now to use data in running our programming,” Addy said. “Things have scaled quite a bit and if we didn't have all this in place, the challenges would be huge. The Access tool that she created is essentially what we're using.”

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