Apr 22, 2010

Staff Spotlight: Peter Jaffe, Associate Director, Operations Research

Peter Jaffe, Associate Director, Operations Research

Peter Jaffe grew up in Cleveland Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, and went to college at Ohio State University, in Columbus. After living in Columbus for two years, he and his girlfriend (now his wife) moved to Brooklyn. "I worked at a stock photo agency for a couple of years and then supervised the circulation department at NYU's Bobst Library until I came to Wagner, in 2005. Two years later, I finished my MBA at NYU Stern, specializing in Operations Management and Data, Models, and Decisions."

Please describe your job function.
My primary job function is to analyze and interpret data and make recommendations to improve and streamline operations throughout Wagner. I develop and analyze a broad set of metrics that can cut across different operational and academic units at Wagner (e.g., Enrollment Management, Financial Management and Human Resources, Program and Student Services, and centers and institutes). The goal is to provide snapshots of what's happening throughout the school, and for managers to access reports and data that have not been readily available. A big part of my job responsibility is to help people get the information that they need in a timely manner.

I use my analytical skills to inform enrollment practices and decisions, project the impact on revenue of enrollment and program changes, and identify opportunities for managing resources and leveraging our assets more effectively. An example of this is a cluster analysis I'm conducting of Wagner courses taken by non-Wagner students to determine how to package these courses for greater value to both the students and the school.

In addition, I am the school's liaison to the registrar's office for issues regarding course registration, course scheduling, and related academic services, and work closely with both the faculty and students.

What makes a successful associate director of operations research? What are your metrics?
My keys to success are being able to quickly respond to registration requests, faculty requests, and related academic services; being able to turn around peoples' data requests quickly; and helping people get and make sense of information that they didn't previously have. One of the things that I count for my metrics is how many new analyses I've generated in a time period, so I can have an idea, in some quantitative way, of how much value I'm adding to the school.

What is the best part about working at Wagner?
The great people who work here.

What is a satisfying aspect of your job?
I like data analysis. There's incredibly useful information packed in data and getting that out and making sense of it is very satisfying.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Not getting frustrated with all the student requests that flood in for things they could probably figure out themselves. But I'm pretty even keeled, so I don't usually get overly excited about stuff.

You worked here at Wagner for a while, then left, and then came back. What was your role when you first worked at Wagner, and what did you do during your time away?
I was the operations supervisor in Admissions from 2005-2007, working under Bethany Godsoe, who was the assistant dean of Admissions and Student Services at the time, and I was enrolled in the MBA program at Stern. On a whim, I entered Stern's eighth annual business plan competition with David Steinberger (a classmate) and John D. Roberts. We wanted to do something related to comic books and the Web, because the comic industry was not well-served digitally. To our great honor, we won the competition, then used the $50,000 in prize money and seed money (from one of the judges) to launch ComiXology, a Web 2.0-based retail service and digital comic distributor.

I left Wagner and worked at ComiXology for about a year and a half before the stock market tanked and stopped our plan's momentum. So I came back to Wagner Admissions on a consulting basis, and when the opportunity arose to stay, I jumped at it.

I'm still affiliated with ComiXology, and the good news is that last July we launched an iPhone application to sell digital comic books that did really well. And we recently created an iPad application for Marvel, which had a huge launch and has been mentioned or reviewed in the New York Times, Business Week, and the Chicago Sun-Times, to name just a few publications.

So are you a big comic-book fan?
Nope. I don't collect comic books.

Well, if you had one superpower, what would it be?
I never considered that, but probably the power to control peoples' minds. Something really wicked!

If you could meet one famous person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I'd have to go with Charles Mingus because, aside from being a huge fan of his music, he was a total creative genius.

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