Notre Dame-SAP Alliance Brings Data Home

Author: Gene Stowe

Don Ginocchio, a 1981 Notre Dame graduate and employee of SAP, the global enterprise software firm, has worked at Innovation Park for the past year as the University and SAP seek innovative ways to use Big Data analytics. One partnership involves ESTEEM students’ work with Indiana state officials on traffic data that involves 160 million records of incidents across the state.

Don Ginnochio

“I spend time talking to faculty and administrators about what they’re doing in curriculum or research and see how we can help each other,” says Ginocchio, who started the work in June 2014 in Innovation Park. “We’re moving to a data-driven decision making kind of world. We have this explosion of information, and we’ve got the tools to quickly use it constructively.”

ESTEEM Student presents in Indy

The seven elements of the Notre Dame-SAP Alliance are high-level research, innovation software to solve problems, partnerships with others, classroom learning, developing talent through courses and events such as hackathons and contests, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility.

Last December, Ginocchio took ESTEEM students and Assistant Director Sunny Shah to Indianapolis, where state officials have worked with SAP to solve problems with data-driven decisions based on information about issues from traffic and climate to crime and infant mortality. The one-day event included presentations about what the students had learned.

This year, ESTEEM students will go to Indianapolis on Sept. 4, near the beginning of an eight-week course on Data Analytics taught by Robert Lewandowski. State officials will ask them to explore the traffic data, perhaps in search of answers to particular questions. State officials will come to campus on Oct. 14 for a presentation of the results.

“It exposes people to the field, it exposes people to our technology, it encourages students to learn,” Ginocchio says. “The benefit for the state is they get bright minds to look at some of their problems. For ESTEEM, it makes it a more robust learning experience. It gives them a chance to learn and to present on real-world problems.”

ESTEEM Students in Indy Spring of 2015

While some 60 SAP University Alliances employees work with many universities around the world, only Ginocchio and Notre Dame have a one-to-one arrangement. He works with professors in the Mendoza College of Business and the Colleges of Science, Arts & Letters and Engineering as well as ESTEEM. The SAP relationship this summer also included internships for two computer science engineering students at the company’s Palo Alto location and two business students in Philadelphia, part of the goal to develop SAP’s talent pipeline.