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Using Data for Good has been a consistent priority for AnalyticsIQ since day one. We have proudly donated our data free of charge to several leading colleges and universities across the country for educational use in the classroom as part of our University Partner Program.

We recently caught up with university partner, Belmont University, and the leaders of the Belmont Data Collaborative. Check out the conversation below to learn about the Belmont Data Collaborative, their mission, and how they are working to equip every individual with data skills.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your current role?

Dr. Charles Apigian: My name is Charlie Apigian and I’m the Executive Director of the Belmont Data Collaborative. I’ve been in this role for 2 years, but before this position I spent 18 years in the data science, information systems, and information security space.

In my previous role, I built a data science institute at another university where I developed undergraduate and graduate curriculum, but I found myself wanting to focus more on community-level stuff. Belmont University was actually looking to create what is now the Belmont Data Collaborate, and I knew they would need somebody that is an absolute, non-stop champion for it. I was immediately drawn to the opportunity of doing that type of work at a new level in Nashville. Coming to Nashville from a smaller city took everything that I was doing and heightened it to a level that I could not have imagined. That was the part I was hoping for, and it has exceeded all my expectations.

Thomas Strickler: My name is Tommy Strickler and I’m the Data Analytics Manager for the Belmont Data Collaborative and I’ve been here for just under a year. My previous role was with a company in population health, and we did wellness programs where I was focused on membership engagement, health outcomes, and analytics.

As the Data Analytics Manager, my job is to bring data into the Belmont Data Collaborative so we can get it out to people on campus so that they can have data experiences and build out their data skills. I seek out data that is relevant to the projects we are working on and help other members of our Data Collaborative team – such as our Assistant Director of Curriculum and Programs, our Assistant Director of Special Initiatives – come up with data experiences for the classroom.

What is the Belmont Data Collaborative and what is its mission?

Charlie: The Belmont Data Collaborative is a university-wide initiative that looks to do good within the local community with data, and our mission of turning data into action is made up of three main components.

First, like AnalyticsIQ, we believe in “Data for Good”, and we want that concept to be the genesis for our education and experiences here on campus and in the community.

In terms of education, our goal is “Data for All”. We’ve crafted out what we call a data mindset that we use in all of our projects, which involves going from dilemma to data to insights to action. Now, we’re building curriculum for our students based on what we’ve learned from those projects to give students of all disciplines data skills.

The third is a “Data for Diversity” component. To us, it is more about diversity of thought, and we want, to not only talk about it, but to also take actionable steps for diversity through data.   By applying a diversity lens to everything we do, we’re able to empower all people to be actionable with data.

Can you tell us about past projects the Belmont Data Collaborative has worked on?

Charlie: One of our first real projects was one examining health inequities in Nashville, specifically related to hypertension. We started by identifying this dilemma, diving into data, seeing relationships and trends, and then empowering others to take action within their community. We did this alongside an anchor organization, Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center in North Nashville and the non-profit Nashville Health.

Three of the most important things to do with your health are food access, physical activity, and mental well-being. When you look at North Nashville on a map, you can see that it is a bit of food desert and hypertension is 20% higher than in different areas. Seeing real-world data come to life and give you real insight needed to take action is just mind-blowing.

Another very recent engagement we’ve done that used AnalyticsIQ’s data was with an investment company in Nashville and helping them identify new markets. We examined AnalyticsIQ’s segmentation system, Symphony, to identify specific attributes possessed by their best customers. This allowed them to expand their prospect pool beyond who they historically expected by going after individuals with unique attributes not previously considered predictive of being a customer.

Tommy: In another project, we worked on using the AnalyticsIQ data with a vulnerability index for mental health that we created. We started by pulling community-level data points and turning them into indexes that allow us to identify vulnerable communities for mental health. That is great, but when you are trying to spread the word about mental health in the state and communities in order to achieve better outcomes, it always helps to tell an interesting story with data, and that is exactly what are doing with the AnalyticsIQ data.

We pulled CDC data to understand prevalence of poor mental health days across communities. Then, we rolled up AnalyticsIQ data to zip code and community levels and pulled some interesting insights. For example, we saw that communities with a prevalence of poor mental health days had a higher proportion of people that stay up and watch TV between 11:00 PM and 2:00 AM.

Those kind of insights you can literally see and those interesting nuggets are what will really stick in people’s minds as we’re trying to get out there and empower organizations and nonprofits around Nashville to jump into the actionable side of addressing mental health in the community.

What is your relationship with AnalyticsIQ, and what was your reaction to being connected?

Charlie: AnalyticsIQ has generously donated their consumer dataset, PeopleCore, to Belmont University for free use in the classroom. One of our interns – who is also one of AnalyticsIQ’s interns – brought AnalyticsIQ’s open invite to their University Partner Program to my attention and asked if we might be interested. I was like, “Are you serious, of course?!” I kept wondering, “Well, what strings are attached?” There haven’t been any strings attached yet – it’s been all good stuff. We recognized our mutual desire to do good with data and appreciate that AnalyticsIQ took a flyer on a new Data Collaborative.

What was your impression of AnalyticsIQ data?

Tommy: The AnalyticsIQ data just gives a lot more. It is so relatable to people and their everyday lives. There are just so many interesting things about it and relating that to the community-level prevalence of health outcomes or other business challenges to the very specific human factors and behaviors you can get from the AnalyticsIQ data is super rich and very valuable.

How do you think this relationship will benefit your students and local community?

Tommy: AnalyticsIQ’s willingness to share such quality, real-world data with us is going to give us the ability to teach real data skills to all students on campus. When I was coming through data science, analytics, and statistic programs and classes, I was learning how to do cluster analysis with different colored flower pedals. Every data science student has probably looked at that ‘iris dataset’. But how is that related to real-life or real data science work? Belmont students are going to be learning based on real data, so they’ll be able to go on to careers in marketing – or even something like music business – and be prepared since this will be the same type of data they’ll be using. I think that is so awesome.

What is next for the Belmont Data Collaborative? What future projects are on the horizon, and how will AnalyticsIQ’s data support these goals?

Charlie: Big picture, we’re wanting to change people’s mindset on how they use data. One way to do that is by taking traditional datasets and merging them with non-traditional data and integrating the two. So instead of only looking at CDC data, what if you take that and now look at AnalyticsIQ data to see some of the interesting, predictive insights that Tommy just mentioned.

That’s how you change people’s mindset, and so we’re going to keep doing things like that. People will be able to think outside the box on how data really relates to a problem. Data like AnalyticsIQ’s is not just the same stuff we’ve heard over and over again, and if that gives us any glimmer into things, it can change the way we talk about some pretty hard subjects.

It’s about spurring new mindsets on campus and then outside in the community now and into the future, and I think we are getting there.

What does success look like?

Charlie: I think success goes to the ability to convene people that want to work on hard problems. That’s what data is allowing us to do. It has given us this new ‘superpower’ where we can convene anybody – students, governors, mayors, you name it. People are willing to come to the table with us. Why? Because we have data and we’re creating stories from data that are relatable and actionable.

It gets us in rooms on campus and off campus that leads to action. Action doesn’t happen because you have a good bar chart or presentation. It’s the conversations afterwards, and we create those conversations. That’s what success is for us.

Tommy: From the “Data for All” and “Data for Diversity” side here on campus, I think our success is how we continue to infiltrate the different colleges and classes at Belmont, and we’re doing that. For example, the Belmont Data Collaborative is in a curriculum map in the O’More College of Architecture & Design – wow!

Students are going to have interactions with the Belmont Data Collaborative in most semesters that they’re on campus now, so we’re going to continue building on that and building those relationships across all the colleges and relating them to our “Data for Good” projects in the community.

We appreciate your time, Charlie and Tommy. For more information on the Belmont Data Collaborative, please visit