Elective Course at Penn State Great Valley Prompts Career Pivot for This Grad Student


Penn State Great Valley
Image via Penn State Great Valley.
Paul Minninger.
penn state great valley

Penn State Great Valley student Paul Minninger has been busy this year, writes Christy Selagy for the university.

That’s not to say he wasn’t busy before — less than two years after earning his bachelor’s degree in finance in 2016 at Penn State’s University Park campus, he enrolled in Great Valley’s MBA program after hearing positive things from friends and family who had attended Great Valley.

When he began his MBA in January 2018, he was taking classes part-time while working in the financial services industry, most recently as a chief compliance officer. But an elective course changed everything for Minninger.

“I took a data visualization course as an elective for my MBA and decided I wanted to pursue a degree in data analytics after that course,” he said.

In January 2021, he made a few big decisions: enroll in the data analytics program through Penn State World Campus, pursue both degrees full time, and leave his job to focus on his studies.

The same month, Minninger began working with the Hawai‘i Invertebrate Program (HIP), which he was connected with by his partner, Jana Maravi. The program is part of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and studies a variety of invertebrates on the islands.

Minninger focuses on Kamehameha butterfly caterpillars, one of two native Hawaiian butterfly species, investigating the decline of its population in its native range.

The data he works with includes caterpillar disappearance rates and predation events, which allows him to analyze the predators and other environmental factors with the goal of finding ways to safely reintroduce the butterfly to the islands.

“The first course taught within the data analytics program is applied statistics. Within this course, we primarily work with the statistical programming capabilities of Microsoft Excel,” Minninger said. “This course provided me the skills to graph, explore, and clean data in Excel, which is my primary responsibility for the (HIP) project. My classes at Great Valley have also taught me data best practices and the applications of analytics to business. I use these best practices to guide my communication with HIP in order to provide them the best analysis possible.”

Read more about Paul Minninger from Penn State Great Valley.

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