The Time a Class Changed My Life…

As I was perusing the course register last spring, an unusual cross-listing caught my eye: statistics and marketing. I hadn’t see this combination before and–as it turns out–neither has most of the world.

MKTG/STAT 476/776, Applied Probability Models in Marketing, is an undergraduate and MBA class taught by Professor Peter Fader every spring. The class focuses on the “analysis of behavioral data to understand and forecast customer shopping/purchasing activities.” In a nutshell, it is about quantifying traditional marketing concepts by using existing statistical models and tools. Quantifying customer retention using something other than a typical normal distribution isn’t really a common approach, but Professor Fader is a subject-matter expert, working with firms across industries such as consumer packaged goods, financial services, and pharmaceuticals. Wherever he goes, he revolutionizes firms’ approach to marketing. In his “free” time, he is also co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, a research center dedicated to the analysis of customer behavior and its broader implications.

But the part about this class that really blew me away was not just that the material was at the forefront of modern marketing, but that Professor Fader is incredibly passionate about passing his knowledge to his students. During lecture, he challenged us to engage with the course material–what do you think will happen? What is wrong with the model we have just built? What can we do to improve it? He posed these questions to undergraduates and MBAs alike, challenging us to synthesize our knowledge of statistics and old-fashioned common sense and apply it to the real world. He draws on his work experience across different firms to demonstrate classic mistakes people have made in marketing and ensures that we understand his differing thought process. His door is always open to students, sitting down to walk them through lecture concepts or to even bounce off new applications to the course material.

I came into this class hoping for insight into a unique subject and maybe to fulfill a business breadth graduation requirement, but his passion for the field and the development of my analytical abilities over the semester instead propelled me to declare a concentration in statistics. It is the course I always recommend to my peers, and I truly believe that it will continue to be relevant years later.


Katie is currently a senior concentrating in finance, statistics, and OPIM. Outside of the classroom, she is in Peer Advising Fellows, a group of seniors dedicated to advising the Wharton undergraduate student body, and her business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, where she serves as the Vice President of Alumni Relations. On any given day, you can probably find her sipping espresso at the local coffee shop, catching up with friends over frozen yogurt, or just sitting outside and enjoying Penn’s beautiful campus.