Taylor Swift workshop helps fill a blank space for economics students

Taylor Swift workshop helps fill a blank space for economics students

March 1, 20243 min read

The University of Delaware's Kathyrn Bender developed a concept that professors could only conjure in their wildest dreams: A Taylor Swift-themed workshop that helps college students better understand data analytics through the music of the world's biggest pop star.

Bender, assistant professor of economics in UD's Lerner College of Business and Economics, came up with the idea while teaching her Introduction to Microeconomics class in early October when the discussion turned to MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets.

“I noticed in that class there was a lot of excitement, and I had just about everybody’s attention in there, whether they were interested because of football or because of the Taylor Swift aspect. So I thought that was really cool,” Bender said.

Using grant money, Bender quickly jumped on the idea and developed a Swift-themed data visualization workshop series entitled “Data Enchanted: Transforming Numbers into Knowledge.”

She held three 90-minute workshops during the fall semester, which ran from late October through early December: “Ready for It,” an introduction to Stata; “You Belong with Me,” building and structuring data for analysis; and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” transforming and cleaning data for analysis.

The workshops helped UD students learn to utilize Stata, a statistical software package used for data manipulation, visualization and automated reporting. They were an immediate success, as Bender received over 60 applicants, although she was limited to accepting just 32 due to space limitations.

Though students don’t earn credit for completing the workshops, just a certificate, Bender said they help fill some gaps that aren’t covered in classes.

“I think they’re kind of expected to learn about it, piecing it together from different classes,” Bender said. “This [workshop series] is a way for students to get introduced to thinking about data, how it’s set up, how you can create good visualizations with it … those basics before you get into the analysis.”

Making the workshops Swift-themed helped students pick up concepts more easily in a fun environment. Before jumping into data sets, the students make friendship bracelets to the soundtrack of Swift's music. In one session, they pulled Spotify data and statistics to analyze the popularity of Swift’s songs.

“We’ve stuck with Taylor Swift songs and albums so far,“ Bender said. “So all the data sets have been very easy for the students to understand as opposed to something that’s not as familiar for them to think about. They know what a song is, they know what the duration of a song is, those things are all very easy to understand. They’re able to practice these new data skills without having to worry about the content as much.”

Due to the workshop’s immediate success, Bender is planning on expanding the program during the spring semester. She aims to hold eight workshops, the initial three and then five more, and hopes to make them available for all UD students (they were available only as an undergraduate program in the fall).

Reporters who would like to write about the workshop and interview Bender can contact her directly by simply the contact button on her profile. Or, send an email to UD's media relations team.

Connect with:
  • Kathryn Bender
    Kathryn Bender Assistant Professor of Economics

    Research focuses on the economic pedagogy as well as the economics of food waste, experimental economics and consumer behavior.

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