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Alfred Essa

VP, Analytics and Data Science, Macmillan Learning

Alfred is Vice President, R&D and Analytics (Sep. 2013 – present) in the Digital Platforms Group at McGraw-Hill Education. Reporting to Stephen Laster, he has strategic responsibility for research, data science, and analytics.

Previously he was Director of Analytics Research & Strategy (Feb. 2011 – Aug. 2013) at Desire2Learn Inc, where he was responsible for leading research and business strategy for the analytics portfolio, including products, solutions, acquisitions, and partnerships. At Desire2Learn he led product development of the Student Success System, the acquisition of Degree Compass, and the architecture of the joint analytics solution with IBM.

He was Associate Vice Chancellor and Deputy CIO (2006 – 2011) at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the fifth-largest system of two-and four-year colleges and universities in the US. At MnSCU he led academic online strategy, enterprise infrastructure services, identity and access management, network security, academic technologies, and web development.

In 2005 he co-founded (with Carl Blesius) the .LRN Consortium, serving as the first Board Chair and Executive Director. .LRN is an open source project based on OpenACS, which in turn is based on the pioneering ACS open source toolkit developed by MIT entrepreneur Philip Greenspun.

Alfred was CIO at MIT’s Sloan School of Management (1999-2005) with responsibility for strategic planning and delivering high-touch services at one of the premier business schools in the world. At MIT he was the Principal Investigator for the iLearn project, a research effort to design the next generation learning system. He received an MIT Excellence Award in 2005 for Innovative Solutions and MIT Sloan Community Appreciation Awards in 2002 and 2005.

Alfred is a High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, and Magna Cum Laude graduate of Haverford College. He also holds Masters degrees (MA, MPhil) from Yale University, where he was an instructor in the selective Directed Studies honors program. In 1982 he served as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Alfred is an avid long-distance runner, having completed 7 marathons and qualified for the Boston marathon in 2010 with a time of 3:24. In his spare time he can also be found playing pickup blitz chess games in ICC. His favorite chess player is Mikhail Tal, known for his daring, improvisational style. His most recent interest is developing free online tutorials for data analysis and scientific computing using the Python programming language.