Big Data Month events to focus on FOIAs, health care, climate change and more

Graphic of Big Data Month Logo
Image credit - Bayleigh Ivan

The benefits of data analysis in areas such as journalism, climate change, health care and even analyzing ancient Greek texts, will be examined during multiple Big Data Month events at Grand Valley throughout September.

Ed Aboufadel, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs and lead Big Data Month coordinator, said it's important for students to understand how big data affects their careers and daily lives.

“Students will benefit by learning how big data tools are being applied across the curriculum, impacting their future careers in ways they may not be anticipating,” said Aboufadel. “An understanding of big data is important because of its effects in so many areas, from health care to elections, from weather prediction to stock market prediction.”

Below is the full schedule of Big Data Month events. Excluding the Big Data Ignite Conference, all events are free, open to the public, and LIB 100 approved for students. For more information, visit

Open Data Empowering Community: Equity, Health, and Civic Initiatives
September 6, from 6-7:30 p.m.
Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center, Pew Grand Rapids Campus

During this presentation, the City of Grand Rapids Digital Team will describe how they use real-time data to inform their decisions and set key metrics to determine if programs and services are regularly meeting objectives. The team will also explain how they analyze data to gain insights and drive actions that help improve outcomes in the Grand Rapids community. Grand Rapids Digital Team members presenting include Alex Melton, Jon Oeverman, Zac Thiel, and Hannah Walters. This event is sponsored by Grand Valley's Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

Quantifying Variability in Environmental Systems to Improve Management, Planning, and Policy Development
September 13, from noon-1 p.m.
Kindschi Hall of Science, room 4402, Allendale Campus

Drew Gronewold, hydrologist and physical scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, will discuss innovative approaches to quantifying uncertainties in environmental systems using probability theory and Bayesian inference. This event is sponsored by the Biology Department.

Models and Data for Studying Water Quality and Climate Change
September 13, from 4:30-5:45 p.m.
Kirkhof Center, room 2250, Allendale Campus

During Gronewold’s second presentation on September 13, he will describe recent research on combining models and data to help improve understanding of changes in hydrologic systems over seasons and times, with a focus on the impact on water quality and climate change. This event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

Big Data Ignite Conference
September 19-21
DeVos Place, Grand Rapids

Grand Valley is a sponsor of this year’s annual Big Data Ignite conference, which will highlight examples of symbiotic intelligence through automation. Conference participants will explore emerging trends in data science, data analytics, cloud computing and data management in industries ranging from health care and manufacturing, to nonprofits and retail. 

Life at the Intersection of Biology, Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science
September 26, from 1-2 p.m.
Mackinac Hall, room B-2110, Allendale Campus

During this presentation, Mary Winn, program evaluation and coordination manager for Core Technologies and Services at Van Andel Institute, will discuss how mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists collaborate with biologists to uncover the complexities of life through data. This seminar is sponsored by the Mathematics Department.

September 27, from 6-9 p.m.
Kirkhof Center, room 2270, Allendale Campus

Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock, a non-governmental organization dedicated to freedom of information issues, will kick off FOIA-Fest with a keynote address about a national overview of the freedom of information landscape. He will explain the process and mechanics of writing a FOIA request. Anne Jbara, assistant general counsel and Freedom of Information Act coordinator at Grand Valley, and Patrick Beatty, staff attorney in the City of Grand Rapids City Attorney’s Office, will explain how to file an effective FOIA request. Local journalists will also be on-hand to describe their experiences using FOIA requests in their reporting. FOIA-Fest will conclude with a hands-on session during which Grand Valley faculty, members of the Michigan Freedom of Information Coalition and the presenters will help attendees write and file their own FOIA requests. This event is sponsored by the School of Communications.

Bodies of Work: Digital Corpora for Teaching and Research
September 28, from 3-4 p.m.
Lake Ontario Hall, room 179, Allendale Campus

Following his work during the 2018 NEH Institute for Advanced Technology in Digital Humanities, Peter Anderson, professor of classics, will discuss his current project on early modern Latin translations of ancient Greek texts. When Greek texts were rediscovered and began to be published in volume during the 15th-17th centuries, they were often printed with a Latin translation, which was usually the point of access for most readers. Thousands of pages of these translations are increasingly available as digital images. Anderson will explore the potential and challenges of “translating” these image resources into useable bodies of textual data for his research project. More broadly, Anderson will discuss opportunities for teaching, and faculty and student research collaborations, that can occur through creating sustainable digital humanities resources. This event is sponsored by the Classics Department.


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