Allison Montgomery ’18 Receives Honorable Mention Award in Tableau Student Assignment Contest

Monday, February 12, 2018

by Gordon Kender

In an Internet-fueled society, we encounter troves of instant information daily. Data analytics is at the forefront of analyzing this information, driving the way we learn about and affect the world in this medium. Using the programs and data available at www.tableau.com, a site that allows users to create visual, interactive data sets, Saint Joseph’s University undergraduate Allison Montgomery ’18 received an honorable mention award in Tableau’s recent Student Viz Assignment Contest. Her project spreads human rights information to Internet users worldwide.

“Tableau is an amazing data visualization tool — one of many on the market,” says Kathleen Campbell Garwood, Ph.D., Montgomery’s academic advisor and assistant professor of business intelligence and analytics at Saint Joseph’s University. “Unlike Excel, it is not something you can teach someone by giving them steps. It is a tool that allows people to get creative and show interesting patterns beyond the usual pie charts, pivot tables and bar graphs. I think as a whole, the University is choosing to bring it in as a tool that can parallel classroom assignments.”

Montgomery, of Washington Township, New Jersey, learned how to use Tableau’s software by researching it in her free time. “There is a huge online community for the software, including blogs, video tutorials, and plenty of articles that I referenced,” she says.

Her award-winning visualization is titled: UN Sustainable Development Goals: How Are We Doing? “The data I used was taken from the UN’s My World survey, designed to gauge how the organization is progressing with its sustainable development action campaign,” says Montgomery. “There are 17 goals the UN hopes to achieve in the coming 15 years, and I focused on one of the survey questions: ‘Do you believe that the situations for any of these 17 goals have changed in the past year?’”

Her research centers on the varying perspectives of survey participants, and from where those perspectives originate. “I chose to further specify based on three more questions in the survey: whether or not the survey participant is aware of the UN’s efforts; where the participant lives; and the participants’ generation," Montgomery says. "People have different experiences with how they think about poverty levels related to where they live in the world."

Montgomery completed an independent study in the fall 2017 semester that focused on Tableau. She created multiple visualizations for non-profits throughout the project, one of which won third place in the Eighth Data for a Cause Challenge, a group that helps nonprofits get free analysis and data visualization work from students or volunteers. She created a map visualization of factory farms for the Humane League’s 88 percent campaign.

The double major in business intelligence and marketing says she likes using both skillsets to "put the faces back in the numbers. Viewers are not just looking at a spreadsheet, rather they’re understanding a story.”

For who wish to learn more about Tableau, Montgomery suggests attending the Tableau User Group (TUG) that meets on campus. “There’s a ‘Drop-in Center’ run by TUG every Monday. There are always two undergraduate volunteers ready to help tutor and train students in Tableau,” Montgomery says.

Campbell oversees and plans all meetings for TUG. “I’m working closely with six to ten alumni who come back to Saint Joseph’s monthly to help students learn advanced techniques and skills being used in a variety of industries,” says Campbell. “TUG Philly comes once a year to Saint Joseph’s, which brings up to 30 employers to come see what our students are doing with Tableau.”

To view Montgomery’s profile and visualizations, go to https://public.tableau.com/profile/allisonmontgomery#!/. More information about Tableau Viz can be found online. For Tableau tutoring and training, the Drop-in Center is open on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in room 295 in Mandeville Hall. For information on the Tableau User Group (TUG), contact group overseer Kathleen Campbell Garwood Ph.D., assistant professor of business intelligence and analytics, at kcampbel@sju.edu



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