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Graduate students analyze historical data to inform future city planning

Volume of industry

The graduate students created an interactive dashboard where users can filter by an industry type and corridor location to view and compare the mix of industries in St. Pete.  The above image is from the dashboard created by USF students Sai Pavan Banala, Durga Mohan Bathula, Meghanjali Chennupati, Surendra Maddipati and Mohammed Afeef Shaik.

A partnership between the City of St. Petersburg and USF’s Muma College of Business provided a group of graduate students the opportunity to analyze historical data that could help the city make informed decisions about future growth in the community.

The students, comprised of industry professionals pursuing a Master of Science in Business Analytics and Information Systems, reviewed data on property ownership, investments and property values in the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). The 7.5-mile special district from 30th Avenue South to 5th Avenue North is one of three CRAs established in 2015 to promote reinvestment in housing, neighborhoods and commercial corridors.

Students utilized advanced analytics applications to clean the data and create interactive visualizations. They also prepared project plans, proposal documents and video presentations to share their work.

The city could use the historical data analyzed by the students to help devise strategies for public investments and infrastructure improvements in the future.

“The project gave us an opportunity to utilize various analytical techniques to find trends and patterns," said Neha Negi, a graduate student who received her MS in May. "Participating in this project expanded my knowledge of data analysis techniques and the importance of data-driven decision-making."

The spring 2023 collaboration was part of an Enterprise Information Systems course that gives students real-world experience in business analytics, data science, data engineering and information technology.

“This capstone course offers a unique experiential learning opportunity,” said Priya Dozier, assistant professor of instruction at Muma College of Business. “In other courses, they may get pre-set data with outcomes to practice a new skill. In the capstone course, it’s important for them to work through real-world data where the answer is not what they expect or might be messy. Navigating through these challenges reinforces critical thinking skills and prepares them to join the workforce.”

Dozier added that community organizations and local governments lack funding to hire consultants and data scientists for every project, so the partnerships benefit everyone involved. 

“The City of St. Petersburg’s Economic and Workforce Development staff truly valued the innovative partnership and successful collaboration with USF St. Pete and future business leaders,” said James Corbett, the city’s development administrator. “Graduate students received a unique learning opportunity working with public sector data for a real-world application while simultaneously providing the city with unique visualizations and analyses.”

Corbett said the city would utilize the results to support a data-informed approach to impactful and equitable planning for commercial corridors throughout the CRA, which will help support the long-term success of businesses in the community.  

USF and the City of St. Petersburg hope to create more partnerships like these in the future. 

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