Using the Business Classroom to Help Fe y Alegría- Bolivia Schools with Analytics and Pattern Visualization
This article describes the analytical support a Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) data mining class provided over the past three academic years to Fe y Alegría in Bolivia (FyAB), a Jesuit-sponsored institution dedicated to the education of the poor and looking for a feasible model that could help them identify which students and schools have the most need. SJU undergraduates, working without viable socio-economic household income information for each student in the database, had to be creative in assisting FyAB using only survey data provided by Bolivian school-age pupils. Working in consultation with FyAB school representatives, their goal for each iteration was twofold: 1) create a model that provides evidence, given current sample data, of the students most in need and 2) expand it for application across the larger population of FyAB schools. Such work exemplifies, as noted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ (2015), the importance of equality and justice in education as instruments toward sustainability. This article thus provides context for, and a historical background of, this ongoing initiative, and describes its specific characteristics. It reviews
sequential cohorts of students by semester, how the requests, focus, and models evolved with new and changing issues, and concludes by sharing a system SJU students created in the fall of 2017—an innovative web-based and easily updated visualization tool that allows for very efficient examination of survey answers—to help make initial analyses easier for those looking to implement immediate student outreach initiatives in Bolivia.