Rowan Flynn remembers the moment when he could first picture his future.

One fall afternoon, after listening to an energetic lecture from Michael Ratajczyk, Flynn changed from an “undecided” major to a finance and business intelligence and analytics double major. Since then, he’s been honing his skills to be a game-changer in the healthcare business sector after graduating this spring.

When Flynn arrived at Saint Mary’s in 2014, from Wausau, Wis., he confidently began his studies in another direction—biology—but after taking a couple of labs, he soon discovered that it just didn’t feel like the right fit.

“Over the next three semesters I dipped my feet in the water of multiple departments,” he said. “I gradually began losing confidence that there was a ‘right’ major for me and my skills and interests.”

Flynn said he was gravitating toward business classes, when Ratajczyk opened the doors to a whole new career opportunity.

“In a few short minutes he transformed the business intelligence and analytics field from simply a major I saw listed in the Business Department brochure to a major filled with doors of new opportunity, accompanied with an array of potential career path options,” Flynn said.

Flynn said it’s the hands-on aspect—and the potential to be a “game-changer” for an industry—that attracted him the most, even more than the knowledge that business intelligence analysts are in high demand.

“I love the hands-on approach of playing around with the data, and I won’t relax until it’s perfect,” he said. “It’s an iterative process, as it is constantly shifting and evolving. It’s a lot of trial, error, and reasoning. It’s all about asking, ‘What can I do with this data, and what can I take from it?’ The more I put into it, the more rewarding it is.”

Flynn has appreciated the practical opportunities Saint Mary’s has provided him. Last year, for example, Ratajczyk brought in alumni professionals, as well as Fastenal administrators, to listen to student teams present on the topic of freight analysis.

“Saint Mary’s has blessed me with an endless amount of opportunity to jump into the field of data analytics and really prepare myself for the outside world,” he said. These skills came in handy over the summer when Flynn interned at Church Mutual Insurance in Merrill, Wis. “They were very impressed about how I tackled projects and how quickly I could go through the steps and put information together for a presentation,” he said.

“I’m excited about having the capability to be a ‘game-changer’ in an industry with a combination of persistence, innovation, and creativity,” he added. “As a business analyst I can take something many people have overlooked—raw data—and build it into something beneficial and influential to decision-makers. Professor Ratajczyk constantly emphasizes that I should combine my love for the work involved in the field with my determination to find solutions.”

Because of his passion, as well as his community engagement, Flynn (who will also serve as a Mayo Innovation Scholar this year) was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from MinneAnalytics, a nonprofit organization with more than 10,000 members dedicated to serving Minnesota’s data science and analytics community.

“It’s a nice boost financially—but just knowing that people are recognizing my work means a lot to me, and encourages me to keep going. It gives my work more meaning,” he said.

Flynn’s dream is to work in the business intelligence field in healthcare and eventually move into a consulting firm, perhaps one day his own. “I want to help people make a big impact, with nonprofits as my focus,” he said. “With healthcare, ultimately human lives are at stake. It’s about helping healthcare organizations minimize the cost for patients and provide optimal care. Being able to make a difference to impact peoples’ lives is huge for me. It’s not just about profit.”

Flynn can now say with confidence that he has found the right field. “Data analytics is a field of great importance and growth for businesses around the world and I am honored to have the opportunity to dive in and make a difference with every chance I get,” he said. “Catalyzed by the emergence of big data and the use of innovation and effective data analytics, I believe individuals and companies can reach great heights … and I hope to play a part in making sure that happens.”



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