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WSB Students Impact Real-World Business Decisions with Data Visualization Project

By Clare Becker

November 15, 2017

Students from the Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program at the Wisconsin School of Business recently demonstrated their ability to impact real-world business decisions when the recommendations they put forth as part of an applied learning project were adopted by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Office of Risk Management.

A team of six MBA and five BBA students was charged with completing a needs assessment around workers’ compensation claims under the guidance of Jeff Karcher, director of risk management for the UW–Madison Office of Risk Management—the largest risk division in the UW system.

David Olson (MBA ’17), who served as the student leader for the team, said he could immediately see Karcher’s vision for the project: to engage campus stakeholders in proactively addressing risk across the entire university.

Headshot of MBA student David Olson
David Olson (MBA ’17) led the student team for this project. PHOTO: PAUL L. NEWBY II

With this end in mind, the team got to work on the semester-long project, which culminated in the creation of a software dashboard using Tableau—a tool that visualizes data for wide campus presentation and enables better understanding of areas of concern, like injury reduction and overall management priorities.

The students were involved at every level of the project, including presenting their proposal to UW–Madison’s finance and administration leadership. It was fulfilling, Olson says, to see the transition from hard numbers at the beginning of the project to a more comprehensive visual representation at the end, as well as to give back to the school.

“When it came time to present our work to campus leadership, we shared the dashboard we had built, knowing that the things we had done could enable conversation, drive decision-making, and impact the entire campus community,” Olson reflects.

Karcher’s office moved last month to purchase Tableau upon the students’ recommendation and final project outcomes. Karcher says the database has proven very valuable for the UW–Madison Office of Risk Management.

“This project helped steer our office into a new level of analyzing and presenting our workers’ compensation data to campus,” Karcher says. “I was extremely impressed with the team’s knowledge and accomplishments.”

This applied learning project is one of many available to students in WSB’s Department of Risk and Insurance, which was named a Global Center of Insurance Excellence designee by the International Insurance Society in July 2017, one of only 20 institutions worldwide to receive the honor.