Iris Huang Tackles the Business Analytics Field

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is giving graduate student Iris Huang the knowledge, skills and connections to succeed in one of today’s hottest fields: data analytics.

Every Chinese New Year, Iris Huang would save the money she received in the traditional red envelopes limned in gold. She remembers being just 6 years old and putting the cash in a cookie jar for safekeeping.

The first-grader had told her class she hoped to be the first in her family to go to college. A boy then snarled at her, “You know that costs like $50,000, right?” That unkind comment was what first spurred her to start saving.

As she grew up, Huang knew she had the grades and the motivation to earn a degree, but she also realized the cookie-jar savings clearly weren’t going to suffice.

“I had always wanted to go to college, for as long as I could remember,” Huang explains. “I studied really hard and did my best in school, but I didn’t know if this dream would ever be achievable because I came from a very low-income household.”

It wasn’t until she met with a high school counselor that she learned about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. “I remember feeling so relieved … Going to college became a possibility because of financial aid,” Huang says.

When it came time to choose a university, Huang knew only that the school would have to be affordable and give her a hands-on learning environment.

She turned to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

The White-Hot Field of Big Data
Thanks to a number of Advanced Placement high school courses under her belt when she arrived at Cal Poly in 2014, Huang was able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business and a concentration in information systems in just three years.

Now in her fourth year, she’s enrolled in the graduate business analytics program, part of Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business.

“Before [Cal Poly], I never thought I would even go near the tech field. I didn’t even know business analytics existed,” Huang notes. “Cal Poly has its ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy, which really resonated with me. A lot of our students are conducting and leading their own projects.”

In the simplest terms, big data analytics involves gathering, organizing, analyzing, and communicating copious amounts of information.

“You can analyze basically anything using big data analysis tools,” says Huang. “My favorite part is visualizing findings and uncovering the story hidden in the data. It’s much easier to show a graph to someone who is unfamiliar with a topic versus showing them a bunch of numbers.”

Data analytics — a field the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will grow 27 percent by 2026 — is so new and quickly evolving that it will almost certainly give Huang her pick of jobs.

“We are learning how to organize data, find insights from the data, and communicate this to executives and key decision makers,” says the 21-year-old.

“You can do pretty much whatever you want with [the degree]. Big data is such a powerful tool.”

Connecting with Industry
If a degree is only as good as its ability to transform your life and your career, there’s already evidence that Huang is on her way to doing meaningful work.

“Getting into the graduate program at San Luis Obispo got me so much more exposure to big data and allowed me to get my foot in the door,” says the first Cal Poly Scholar, a need-based scholarship program, to graduate from Orfalea.

“At the CSU, we as students have so many industry connections available to us,” continues Huang, adding that contacts she’s made have led to internships at Kaiser Permanente and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. At Kaiser, she learned how to diagnose patients using big data by running patients’ lab results through an algorithm written by doctors; the formula could determine who was at risk for certain diseases.

“Sometimes doctors would miss a diagnosis. These projects identified people who would have otherwise been unaware of their illness and helped them get proper treatment,” she explains.

“My parents heavily emphasized education growing up,” says Huang, who also speaks Cantonese and Mandarin and immigrated from China with her parents at the age of 3. “They truly believe education has transformative powers … to make the positive changes in the world you want, allowing you to break out of your socioeconomic situation.”

That message is not unlike the one that has permeated Huang’s time at the CSU: “At Cal Poly, they teach us to not just focus on the technical aspects, but also be sure to focus on your personal values and what you want to get out of your career.”

Learn more about Cal Poly’s Master of Science in Business Analtyics program.

Iris’ article was written by the CSU and appeared as a CSU Profile. Visit the original page.

Cal Poly Student Team Takes Second Place at National Home Builders Competition

An interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students earned second place at the 2018 National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Residential Construction Management Competition held Jan. 8-10 in Orlando, Florida.

The Cal Poly students, all members of the university’s NAHB student chapter, competed against 33 other university teams, including first-place winner Penn State University, Brigham Young University (third place), and the University of Denver (fourth place).

The NAHB Student Competition, a highlight of the International Builders’ Show, charges students with completing a management project/proposal. This provides them the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to a real construction company. Proposals are submitted to a group of construction company executives serving as judges. Students defend their proposals to the judges in front of an audience.

This year, teams were asked to prepare a proposal to acquire (or decline to acquire) a 72-arce parcel in Okemus, Michigan. The proposal included a market analysis; product design and selection, site design; cost estimate and schedule; site management and logistics; sales and marketing strategy; financial analysis; risk analysis; and sustainability.

The Cal Poly team was led by construction management seniors and team captains Jeremy Suryadi of Fresno, California, and Jeffrey Hammond of Paso Robles, California. They were joined by architecture students Alexander Gama, of San Diego, California, and Tyler Hall, of Denver, Colorado; business finance students Tyler Ingel, of Carlsbad, California, and Carter Jones, of Encinitas, California; city and regional planning student Eric Martinez, of Rialto, California; and construction management students Abraham Ahmed, of Oakland, California, Sarah De Los Reyes, of Long Beach, California, Thomas Fuentez, of Arroyo Grande, California, Trevor Nally, of Valencia, California, and Jeffrey Phunmongkol, of Orinda, California.

The team was advised by construction management faculty members Scott Kelting and Stacy Kolegraff.

“I’m extremely proud of the proposal and presentation our team created over the course of the competition,” Suryadi said. “The competition is no easy task and truly exemplifies Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto. The competition will be remembered as a valuable experience in our education as we move forward with our careers.”

Cal Poly’s interdisciplinary team has consistently placed in the top three spots in the annual competition. The team was awarded third place in 2017, second place in 2016 and second place in 2015.

Photo Information: NAHB Team.jpg — Cal Poly team members (left to right): Stacy Kolegraff (faculty adviser), Eric Martinez, Jeffrey Hammond, Tyler Hall, Alexander Gama, Trevor Nally, Sarah De Los Reyes, Thomas Fuentez, Jeremy Suryadi, Tyler Ingel, Jeffrey Phunmongkol, Carter Jones, Abraham Ahmed and Scott Kelting (faculty adviser).

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business Celebrates Alumni with Inaugural Spotlight Awards

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business hosted the inaugural Spotlight Alumni Awards in San Francisco on Saturday, January 20. More than 200 alumni, faculty and students gathered to network and celebrate the success of business graduates.

The event included remarks from Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong and Orfalea College of Business Dean Scott Dawson about the future of business education and how the network of more than 28,000 alumni can shape opportunities for students.

The event established the Spotlight Awards, given by the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council. The honor is given to alumni who have achieved inspiring career success through ethical leadership, innovation and philanthropic work. Alumni submitted nominations to the committee, which selected two winners.

The Green Spotlight Award went to Jessie Becker (Business Administration, ‘11), who co-founded medical device company InPress Technologies. Becker worked as the first Innovation Coordinator at Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship when she helped found InPress Technologies, which manufactures a patented device that stops post-partum hemorrhage in new mothers without medication or surgery. The company has completed first in woman trials in Indonesia and is currently enrolling in their pivotal study in the United States and Uganda.

The Gold Spotlight Award was given to Gary Erickson (Business Administration, ‘80), founder, co-owner and co-chief visionary officer of Clif Bar & Company. Erickson and his wife, Kit Crawford, transformed a small bakery into one of the biggest, privately-held food brands in the world through an expanding line of energy bars, organic foods and drinks. The company now employs more than 1,000 employees across locations in Emeryville, Calif. and Twin Falls, ID. In addition to emphasizing organic ingredients and carbon-neutral power for its facilities, Clif Bar consistently ranks as one of the best places to work.

“Celebrating the success of alumni like Jessie and Gary is the ultimate validation of our mission,” said Dean Dawson, “and is a shot of adrenaline for all of the Orfalea College of Business community.”

Proceeds from the event will support student scholarships for Orfalea International Business Tours sponsored by the college. The 10-day excursions provide international experience to students who many not be able to study abroad. During the event, business senior Brittany Oliveira of San Jose also shared highlights from tours where she learned from business leaders and cultural experiences in China, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Cal Poly Center Places Second for National Entrepreneurship Award

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) was named runner up for the 2018 National Model Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Program award offered by the nation’s largest organization of teachers, scholars and practitioners in entrepreneurship.

The winners were announced Jan. 14 during the annual conference of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Los Angeles. Syracuse University took the top honor.

“This is a prestigious honor for our program,” said Jonathan York, CIE interim executive director and co-founder. “This recognition indicates that we are at the leading edge in our comprehensive approach to entrepreneurship education, and it is very gratifying for our efforts to be validated by our peers.”

USASBE, with more than 1,000 members from universities and colleges, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations and the public sector, is the largest independent, professional, academic organization dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship.

The Model Program award is given annually to a university entrepreneurship program that offers high-quality innovative programs to educate and develop future generations of entrepreneurs. Programs are evaluated on innovation, quality, comprehensiveness, sustainability, transferability, depth of support and impact.

Past award winners include San Diego State University, Baylor University, the University of Tampa, Wake Forest University, Oklahoma State University and Ball State to name a few.

Cal Poly Named One of Nation’s Best Values by Kiplinger’s Finance Magazine

Entrance to Cal Poly's campusCal Poly was named a 2018 best-value college by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, placing 27th in the nation and sixth in the state among public universities and colleges in the magazine’s annual ranking.

Kiplinger’s, a personal finance and business forecasting organization, ranked the top 300 best-value colleges and universities “based on quality and affordability” from data culled from nearly 1,200 public and private four-year institutions across the nation.

Cal Poly also ranked 86th overall — rising 11 places from last year’s ranking — among U.S. public and private institutions.

University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said the ranking is proof that a Cal Poly education is an investment that will provides students and alumni “with a lifetime of dividends.” 

“This recognition underscores the value of a Learn by Doing education from Cal Poly,” he said. “Our students come to our university attracted by the small class sizes and Learn by Doing. And industry seeks out our graduates because of the know-how, adaptability and practical skills they bring to the job on Day One.”

Introduced in 1998, the Kiplinger ranking combines public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges into a single, comprehensive list, with analysis based on objective measurements of academic quality and affordability.

Cal Poly ranked 12th among California’s public institutions and private universities. Among Golden State public universities, Cal Poly was sixth behind the five University of California campuses: Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Irvine.

The magazine rated each school in five categories: competitiveness (examining the ratio of applicants offered admission to those who actually enroll); graduation rates; academic support (measured by the number of freshmen who return for their sophomore year and the average number of students per faculty member); cost and financial aid; student debt at graduation; and median salary 10 years after graduation.

The rankings focused on traditional four-year schools with broad-based curricula and on-campus student housing. Schools that offered great value but focused on specific or narrow academic programs, such as military academies, were not included.

The full rankings are available online and will appear in print in the February 2018 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To see the complete list of top-value institutions, visit