Living the DREAM: New RSO off to a fantastic first semester

Database Resources for Eager and Aspiring Minds (DREAM) is one of MNSU’s newest registered student organizations. It is also one of the most active and rapidly expanding. Featured shortly after its inception in the Jan. 26 edition of the Reporter, its membership has since increased to over 100 students.

“The fact that this is a student-driven initiative and how quickly it took off really sent a message of how important data science and this career opportunity for our students are and how much interest there was in it from our students,” says Brian Martensen, Dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology.

The focus of DREAM is the emerging field of data science, which is the study of how the “big data” of the modern digital world can be collected, analyzed, and applied to solve complex issues. During just the organization’s first semester, DREAM members have already been able to take advantage of several valuable opportunities.

Last weekend, DREAM students participated in the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition at Winona State University. Last month, DREAM hosted a workshop for students interested in learning SAS, a leading data analytics software. George Haybeck, a senior analytic training consultant who was present at the event, says that “SAS is the largest private software company in the world.” Generally, SAS will offer such training for a minimum of $2,000. The training was offered for free at MNSU and student attendees paid only a small $10 fee to DREAM. Companies such as MinneAnalytics, South Country Health Alliance, and Federated Insurance sponsored the event. During the networking session of the workshop, the Reporter spoke with attendees to get their thoughts on DREAM, SAS, and data science in general.

Dr. Bobby Fleischman, Associate Provost
“We appreciate all the value that DREAM adds to the university. Not just as a stand-alone program, but as a program that works across the boundaries of other disciplines on campus. DREAM is a wonderful engagement for our students and for the community.”

Faical Rayani, DREAM President

“We’ve been doing awesome! We’ve been getting steady improvement in membership and we got $300 in sponsorships. We also have guest speakers lined up for the rest of the semester.”

Brandon Haan, DREAM student
“I joined DREAM because I wanted to get a lot of exposure to data science. It’s something that I think I want to do for my job in the future.”

Dr. Rajeev Bukralia, DREAM Faculty Advisor
“Two instructors from the SAS headquarters in North Carolina are here to train our students and faculty. This is a great opportunity for our DREAM students to learn data analytics hands-on using a leading software that is heavily used in the industry. This has been an excellent experience so far.”

Arun Babu, DREAM student
“I am from a database field and since my passion is database, I was determined to attend this conference and that’s why I signed up at the very first minute I could. It was a tight competition to get into the SAS workshop because the seats were limited, but thankfully I could sign up. It was really worth it.”

Sodiq Tijani, DREAM student
“SAS is fascinating. It can take a lot of information and can be used to analyze complex information. If you want to go into the data analysis field, you have to understand it. It’s related to my major, so I think it’s going to help me a lot with my career.”

George Haybeck, SAS Senior Analytic Training Consultant
“I love teaching and I love showing the business experience I have, bringing it into the classroom and showing to the students what they can do with this tool and how it could better help their careers.”

Parker Scott, DREAM student
“We go to Winona for the MUDAC hackathon [a data science competition]. There’s about twenty teams of three or four people and we get our own room, and they’ll give us a list of questions and a dataset and we’ll basically have 24 hours to go through the data and answer whatever questions they have. Then we put together a presentation that’s about eight minutes long and, then we do a two-page paper. Then we present in front of some judges and if we make the cut, then we do a bigger presentation in front of the rest of the teams and then they select the winners.”

Alycia Holwerda, DREAM student
“[At MUDAC] a business will give us a question or they want us to analyze their data and figure out how to solve their question that they give us. Basically, we’re using the skills we learn in DREAM about how to use a certain software and applying it to a real-world situation.”

Dr. Brian Martensen, Dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology

“We’re making new curriculum. We’ve got a really exciting health informatics degree at the graduate level that’s coming. Then we’ll probably see a minor and a major at the undergrad level for people interested in healthcare, but on the data side. Eventually – hopefully very soon – we’ll have an undergrad program in data science specifically.”

DREAM meets every other Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Heritage Room of the CSU. The next meeting will take place next Wednesday, April 19.

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