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Undergrad’s Senior Project To Be Presented at the AMA Marketing and Public Policy Conference


By Christina Arthur

Business student Anjana Melvin’s senior project, advised by Assistant Professors of Marketing Dr. T.J. Weber and Dr. Chris Hydock, was recently accepted to the American Marketing Association’s Marketing and Public Policy Conference to be presented this summer at Loyola Marymount University, a rare distinction for undergraduate work.  

“I don’t think there’s many students that have stuff sent to academic conferences,” said Dr. Weber as he expressed how unique it is for Melvin’s project to have been accepted. “Even people in doctoral programs struggle to have material accepted.”

Melvin’s project is about brand perception and purchase intentions with political advertisements. “A lot of brands these days are kind of taking a stance on very big political ideas such as LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, and so on,” Melvin said.

As an example, she pointed to how Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign sparked a movement with its message of promoting natural beauty and the acceptance of all different body types, which made the soap manufacturer billions of dollars. “I think a lot of companies since then have tried to follow suit and see if changing their advertising style would get them more revenue,” she said. 

Melvin was interested in seeing why certain ads do well while others don’t. For her project, she focused specifically on the controversial Colin Kaepernick Nike ad through a sentiment analysis to see what consumers on Twitter thought about the content. She found that negative perception of Nike had gone up, which was interesting to her because the ad itself did very well, as Nike’s revenue went up substantially after it ran. “It’s kind of interesting to see how perception on social media is different and how it translates into purchase intentions, but obviously we can’t measure that through sentiment analysis,” she said. 

Melvin’s concentration is quantitative analysis, even though this project had a lot to do with marketing. “I’m not a marketing major, but I’ve always been driven by creative stuff and I love anything creative,” she said. “I also like the data-driven side of it, so that’s why I chose to pursue something like this.” 

Melvin went with this topic because one of her biggest passions is seeing how huge companies can make a major change through advertising. “The Nike ad was probably one of the best ads of all time, so it’s cool to see the difference it made.”

Melvin said the biggest challenge of working on this project was using Orange, the data mining software. “Orange is a fairly new software, and they keep continuously changing things on us so it was a little hard to get everything to go as we expected with that.” 

Weber said that being an advisor for the project worked out great because his dissertation was on how consumers respond to companies taking political stances, which meant he had experience with collecting primary data on this topic. He and Dr. Chris Hydock also worked together on a paper on this subject that was published in the academic journal Customer Needs and Solutions last year, and they have more work on the way. “It was a natural fit considering it’s very similar to what my research was and I already understand the topic area,” he said. 

Weber added that Melvin is a hard worker, so the process of conducting the project wasn’t very difficult. “She understands the material and learned the program in class,” he said. “It was just a matter of walking her through and working together on doing the analysis on an academic level.” 

He also explained how this will be greatly beneficial for Melvin’s future and an outstanding item she can add to her resume. “Regardless of where she goes, I think that it will serve her well to have the unique experience where she can show that she can do things at a higher level.”

Melvin revealed that one of the most rewarding parts about this project is that it helped her realize the personal growth she has achieved over the past couple of years with using and understanding data. “I was never a data person,” she said, “but I know that working in business, especially with marketing now, understanding the analytics of things is really important.” 

Melvin hopes that this project will make an impact by getting people more interested in the research side of marketing. “There is obviously a huge demand for creative marketing within the industry, such as content marketing,” she said, “but I think having that data aspect to it is a fairly new thing in the industry, so I hope this project does generate some interest in seeing what you can do with numbers within the marketing field.”

Photo by Andy Sherar

Donated Hardware is Training ITP Students to Use Smart Sensors and Data Analysis in Food Manufacturing

Anyone who’s used an Instant Pot to braise or fry a meal knows that volume, pressure, and temperature are crucial elements to manage in food preparation. Now, thanks to ifm Efector, one of the largest manufacturers of industrial sensors and controls, Industrial Technology and Packaging students have a new piece of gear for learning about these variables and other processes in food and chemical manufacturing.

Dan Calaman made the donation on behalf of ifm and is one of the manufacturer’s senior applications engineers based in California. He realized the equipment would be a valuable addition to Dr. Manocher Djassemi’s ITP 390 Industrial Automation lab after making multiple trips to Cal Pol to demonstrate sensor technologies and engaging with students.

“This is a great contribution by ifm in promoting the emerging industrial technology of the internet of things and smart manufacturing,” says Dr. Djassemi. “It’s part of a continuous effort in our ITP program to prepare career-ready students by familiarizing them with the latest technologies.”


“It’s part of a continuous effort in our ITP program to prepare career-ready students by familiarizing them with the latest technologies.”


The ifm lab donation is an example of a product tank in a food or chemical manufacturing environment. It’s an effective tool for learning about smart sensors and data monitoring and was developed as a simple way to represent common process variables important in observing media in a tank—i.e. level, pressure, and temperature.

A key feature that differentiates it from monitoring devices of the past, however, is its onboard microprocessor, with a Raspberry Pi control element, allowing operators to take advantage of the large amounts of data being generated in the measurement process, helping facilitate smarter decisions and more efficient workflow practices.

A common example of how this feature may improve a food manufacturing process? Instead of unnecessarily saddling workers with the task of cleaning a level probe, a supervisor can simply monitor the device, which reports when build-up has reached a critical point and needs cleaning. That means less time wasted scraping gunk and more time spent making something delicious.

Click here to learn more about supporting the Orfalea College of Business.

Accounting Student Wins Tuition Scholarship and Internship as Part of New Nationwide Diversity Program

An Orfalea College of Business student’s senior year is beginning on a high note, while also preparing her for career-readiness, thanks to an innovative new approach to enhancing diversity within the CPA profession.

The George Willie Ethnically Diverse Student Scholarship and Internship Program, launched this year by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), helps accounting students with diverse backgrounds pursuing CPA licensure.

Glenn Burdette, the Central Coast’s largest CPA firm, was one of five firms selected nationwide by the AICPA’s PCPS section to participate. The company was chosen in part for their demonstrated commitment to diversity and a robust university recruitment program, which is led by senior tax manager Chris Delaney.

After careful consideration, the firm selected Maurea Richmond, an accounting senior for the award, which includes final-year tuition up to $20,000 and a hands-on internship at the firm during the 2020 tax season.


“I cannot wait to learn from the firm this upcoming tax season and to be able to gain invaluable experience in this practice.”


“I never would have imagined that I would be the recipient of such an amazing award,” says Richmond. “It goes to show that connecting with local professionals and building your network can go a long way. I cannot wait to learn from the firm this upcoming tax season and to be able to gain invaluable experience in this practice.”

“We’re so excited about this internship and the foresight and generosity of the AICPA/PCPS,” says Delaney. “One of my greatest joys is seeing college recruits step into the world of public accounting and thrive. We look forward to welcoming Maurea.”

In addition to leading Glenn Burdette’s on-campus recruitment efforts, Delaney is also part of their on-campus interview team for tax season interns and full-time hires and believes that new ideas and concepts will be fostered from a workforce that is diverse and that brings many voices to the table.

“As someone who is paying their own way through Cal Poly,” says Richmond, “this scholarship lifts a huge weight off my shoulders. I feel relieved and excited to be able to focus my attention on my studies and internship experience, knowing that my tuition will be taken care of.”

(Top) Chris Delaney, senior tax manager, and Jonah Yamagata, tax senior, of Glenn Burdette’s university recruitment team with inaugural George Willie Scholarship and internship recipient, Maurea Richmond (center). Photo credit: Glenn Burdette

Artificial Swarm Intelligence and The Power of the Human Element

By Christina Arthur

How can business teams boost their collective intelligence? That’s a question Dr. Lynn Metcalf of Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business and Dr. David Askay of Cal Poly’s Communication Department set out to answer when they collaborated with Dr. Louis Rosenberg, founder of Unanimous AI, a Silicon Valley-based technology firm, in a new article about Artificial Swarm Intelligence. 

The 26-page paper, which was published in California Management Review of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, is titled “Keeping Humans in the Loop: Pooling Knowledge through Artificial Swarm Intelligence to Improve Business Decision Making.” At its core, it introduces Artificial Swarm Intelligence as a collaboration technology that can enhance traditional AI by harnessing collective human brain power.

It also goes into depth about how business teams can be benefitted by Swarm AI technology, boosting their intelligence above traditional methods to create efficient tools for a broad range of applications, from forecasting financial assets, to predicting sales through optimizing group input. 


“The Swarm AI tool is a way to integrate both humans and machine-learning to make a decision together. [The goal] is to keep humans in the loop and to have some sort of influence over the results.”


As Askay explains, artificial intelligence usually operates on pre-existing data received from machine-learning and the patterns it identifies, a process that typically removes human input from the equation. “There are some concerns about removing people from this process,” he says, “so the Swarm AI tool is a way to integrate both humans and machine-learning to make a decision together. [The goal] is to keep humans in the loop and to have some sort of influence over the results.” 

He further explains this human element is an important component, since the mind possesses intuition and implicit knowledge that’s hard to articulate. Sometimes, for instance, even when weighing complex decisions, a person will operate on a hunch, or an instinct that they are making the right decision, but they aren’t sure why. In an ideal scenario, these conclusions are based on experience and accumulated knowledge. Swarm AI allows for those instincts to be heard, without the human messiness of having to explain the reasoning behind each decision. 

Metcalf adds this tool is different from other AI because it engages humans in a collaborative process of decision-making. In some cases, she says, it has demonstrated that humans, when we pool our intelligence, are capable of a greater wisdom or collective intelligence than machine learning. She also says that at first, the concept of Artificial Swarm Intelligence was envisioned as a type of fun, collaborative tool that networked groups could use inside chat rooms to quickly reach decisions and converge on group forecasts, with teams of Orfalea College students identifying outside-the-box applications for the tech. 

“Then Unanimous AI got some really interesting results on predictions for events like the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby Superfecta,” she says, “and it started to take off as a rigorous decision-making tool that can be used for forecasting in business situations.”

She also says the Swarm AI tool can predict a wide range of outcomes because it’s not topic-specific—weighing in on the results of the World Series to predict which teams will triumph, as well as business-use cases such as which sweaters will sell, or which movies will have the best results at the box office. 


“Unanimous AI got some really interesting results on predictions for events like the Oscars and the Kentucky Derby Superfecta and it started to take off as a rigorous decision-making tool that can be used for forecasting in business situations.”


According to Metcalf, Swarm AI tools are currently being used in pockets of industries, particularly in financial organizations for predicting markets. She says she firmly believes the technology has the potential and the ability to be widely used and that the future of Swarm AI depends on how deeply businesses integrate the tool into their daily activities, which of course depends on teams experiencing real-world outcomes that validate performance gains.

“As an outsider, it’s easy to become skeptical of it,” Askay says, “which I think is the biggest hurdle. It’s just like when any new product comes along. It takes some time to adjust.”

Metcalf and Askay both express their hope for the future of Artificial Swarm Intelligence and how its integration could address certain concerns about artificial intelligence and its rapid advancement. “There’s some sense of urgency about keeping humans in the loop on artificial intelligence,” says Metcalf, “so that humans aren’t relegated to executing the will of machines.”

To read more about the Swarm AI tool and its case studies, click here