Alumna Quantifies Emotions and Feelings Using Power of Mathematics


Satisfaction and happiness are intangible, subjective emotions, but Statistics grad Donna Lockhart ’03 knows how to quantify those feelings into useful, actionable data.

Lockhart currently leads the team that takes the pulse of guest satisfaction at Disney, and uses that data to make recommendations to senior leadership. While behind-the-scenes as the senior management consultant at Walt Disney World, the impact of her work is felt across the parks and resorts.

“People save money for years so they can have this short window of a vacation. I feel responsible for making sure they have the best time possible,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart always had a high aptitude for math and science, which initially led her to study mechanical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She soon realized she was much more interested in pure statistics, and picked up that major when she transferred to UCF.

The appeal of statistics for Lockhart lies in understanding how numbers interact with each other within a dataset; each solution leads to another solution or even an unrealized question. Lockhart develops a roadmap and a hypothesis before tackling each problem, but otherwise lets the data guide her next steps.

While Lockhart can name a dozen statistics methodologies, her supervisors are less concerned about how she reached a conclusion and more about what it all means. In many ways, succinctly and clearly explaining data is the biggest challenge of her job.

“The goal is to tell a story with the data, so when presenting to senior executives we use a lot of graphics and few numbers on a page and rarely mention the actual statistical techniques we use,” Lockhart said. “We’ve already demonstrated our proficiency and my Consumer Insight department is considered a ‘Center Of Excellence’ within our company, so they trust we’ve done our due diligence.”

Lockhart supplements executive presentations with videos and quotes from guests talking about their experiences for some added authority. The outcomes of her work influence everything from resort benefits to new entertainment and attractions to dining experiences.

“We really are instrumental in helping the organization understand the needs of our guests,” Lockhart said.




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