Student completes project with international company through RIT’s global connections

Recent graduate Reagan Brenneman used her well-rounded education to land a project working with a company in Croatia

Recent RIT graduate Reagan Brenneman, third from right, traveled to Croatia to present to Saponia after working on a project for the company. She was co-advised by Nathan Cahill, second from left, and Kristina Soric, second from right.

Worlds collided in more ways than one for Reagan Brenneman ’24 (applied mathematics) when she had the opportunity to combine her major and minors for an exceptional experience working one-on-one for a company in Croatia.

Brenneman spent the summer of 2022 earning her business administration minor at RIT Croatia (in addition to her computer science and English minors at RIT in Rochester), learning from Kristina Soric, area head for Humanities, and Natural and Social Sciences.

Later on, Soric was in Rochester for Imagine RIT and connected with Nathan Cahill, professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics and director of the Mathematical Modeling Ph.D. Program. Soric does a lot of operations research applied to business and was interested in setting up some collaborations with people from the math department.

“I’m always trying to apply mathematical methods of optimization in business processes, especially in supply chain management,” said Soric. “I was interested in collaboration because I could collect data from business practices, but I needed people with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in machine learning.”

Brenneman’s diverse areas of study and prior experience learning in Croatia made her a perfect fit for the project.

“Hands-on work is always something I feel like you have to jump on,” said Brenneman. “It felt like a world colliding moment with the math and the business professors from RIT Croatia and Rochester. It was definitely too cool of an opportunity to ever pass up.”

Soric had a Croatian company, Saponia, that is interested in doing demand forecasting, or looking at sales data and trying to predict what demand will be for different products. Brenneman built on Saponia’s collaborator Matej Zivikic’s thesis, which described how to implement some classical techniques in the field for demand forecasting of products and businesses. Brenneman used coding and machine learning to come up with a new method for forecasting.

The trio of Brenneman, Soric, and Cahill met virtually once a week to go over methods and results. Soric supervised the project from a business perspective while Cahill guided the technical part. At the end, Brenneman and Cahill were able to travel to Croatia where Brenneman presented in person to executives at Saponia.

“Her business administration minor helped give her the context to really understand the mathematical application,” said Cahill. “And with the computer science background, she had all the right skills and talents that were able to make this come together.”

Not only did this project connect RIT’s campuses across the globe, but it opened the door for more collaborations between private business and education.

“It is immeasurably beneficial to establish a connection between the real sector and the academic community, so we are extremely proud that Saponia has taken the first step in such a collaboration with Rochester Institute of Technology,” said a spokesperson from the company. “The presented results of using machine learning models for demand forecasting have provided us with valuable insights into the possibilities of improving our business. We hope that this is just the beginning and that our collaboration will continue to develop successfully.” 

The opportunity Brenneman had as an undergraduate student to work at an international level through RIT Global was truly a unique and rewarding experience.

“RIT offered me a lot of flexibility and encouraged me to get these international experiences,” said Brenneman. “The fact that they have these programs intended for more technical majors to go and do something like this abroad is really, really helpful.”

As a recent Tiger graduate, Brenneman is now well suited to enter the workforce. She accepted a position with the same company she had a co-op with last summer and has impressive experience to build on.

“In the global economy, having opportunities to interact with people from outside of the U.S. is vital for a lot of our students,” said Cahill. “To get that experience will really help them land better, more exciting jobs, and luckily we have the global campuses to interact and collaborate with. We’re definitely looking for more opportunities.”

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