University Economic Development Association


Award Category: Talent Development
Project Site: Developing Analytics and Operations Research Professionals
Submitted By: Lehigh University – Enterprise Systems Center & Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Contact: H. Robert Gustafson, Jr. , 610.758.5869

Case Study


The Lehigh University Enterprise Systems Center received an e-mail from the president of a financial firm on August 5, 2011.

“We have a financial model that we have developed to aid in collection of outstanding loans and assessing the likelihood of future payments.  We have taken this about as far as we can technically and were wondering if you can help to develop analytical models to evaluate consumer loan portfolio data using different tools such as SAS, R, etc.”


Lehigh University Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) worked with the Lehigh University Industrial and Systems Engineering department to create a master’s thesis project using advanced predictive analytics techniques to solve this problem and develop a new paradigm for attacking this major problem.

We combined an ISE professor master’s thesis adviser, her graduate student and an Enterprise Systems Center team that included the Managing Director, Senior Fellow (retired Fortune 500 Director of Analytical Solutions) and a subject matter expert (PhD experienced industry practitioner) to work with the company on this problem.

An entirely new approach to the problem with new processes and technology tools were developed to provide a significantly improved result.


The methodology described in the case study is scalable and applicable to many other technology areas.  Its foundation is the integration of a department’s academic focus with a research center’s resources and industry connections.  This university economic development engine can be broadly applied to many industry sectors.

This initiative had two clients: the students and the industry partner.  Both received a high value as described above.

Students typically report that this type of programs enable them to join top companies and consulting firms with experiences putting them ahead of fellow new hires.

The client now has a tool set and cutting edge technology sufficient to dramatically grow a new business.

There are much broader and far reaching benefits that result from this unique initiative and strategy.  It impacts many students and companies over time.  It is proven sustainable because companies see the value and are willing to pay for these types of projects.  An indication of scalability is that Villanova University’s graduate business school Center for Business Analytics has formed a formal alliance with ESC to utilize these techniques and infrastructure to enhance their experiential learning capabilities.  This alliance has successfully completed its first project with a major energy company using mentors and students from both schools.

Future Considerations

This particular project was part of a larger system of projects that led to the development of the Lehigh University Enterprise Systems Center Analytics Lab that recently received major support from SAS for expanded student involvement.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Chattanooga on October 22, 2012. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.