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In the Business of Data and Minecraft

Photo of Purdue alumnus and donor Francisco Rius with his wife and children.

With experience in software programming and coding, Francisco Rius (M’04, MBA’07) looked to grow his understanding of business and technology in college. After moving to the U.S. from Mexico City, Mexico, he enrolled at Purdue, where he adjusted to Indiana’s colder winters while earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“I didn’t pursue studies in computer science or anything along those lines,” says Rius, Microsoft’s head of data science and data engineering for Minecraft, the world’s top-selling video game. “Still, I love that my business degrees were fairly technical and gave me opportunities to test those skills. It truly is the intersection  of business and technology that has helped me perform well in my career.”

Rius lives in Redmond, Washington, with his wife, Kirsten, and children: Lucas, age 5, and Celeste, 2. He recently made
a gift to Purdue supporting a flagship data science building the university will create through a complete renovation of Schleman Hall. Here, students will prepare to lead in a data-driven world, collaborating with faculty on interdisciplinary projects across the sciences, engineering, and liberal arts to create, problem solve, and harness data for the greater good. 

“I’ve received a lot from Purdue that has shaped my career, so when I learned more about the data science building, I wanted to contribute,” Rius says. “Although it’s not a large gift, I hope it helps create opportunities like those I enjoyed as a student.”

At Microsoft, Rius and his team manage all data science functions related to Minecraft. This allows them to build player analytics, product analytics, predictions, and recommendations. Yet, this can prove challenging at times given the game’s 120 million monthly players representing every country. 

“We try to be as objective as possible, but we’re also dealing with human behavior—in particular gaming behaviors, which can be a lot more random than human behavior itself,” he says. “A large part of my role is ensuring that for every piece of information we create, user data is contextualized.”

To help prepare students for their own giant leaps, Rius has led several projects through Purdue’s Data Mine. This living, learning, research-based initiative introduces students across academic disciplines to data science concepts, equipping them to create solutions to real-world problems. For the past three years, a group has worked directly with Rius and his team. 

“It’s been eye opening to see what the Data Mine program is doing to create a talent pipeline that is going to change the world of data science,” Rius says. “What’s cool about Purdue is that you go to school for four years and are able to focus and explore your interests. Today, I see students who are so focused I know they’re going to be successful. I remember myself a few years ago, and I wasn’t even at that point yet, so I can only imagine what they will be able to create after they graduate.”

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Purdue for Life Foundation

Patsy J. Mellott

BS College of Health and Human Sciences, 1969
Fishers, IN

Patsy earned a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition in business from Purdue in 1969, in addition to an MBA in food marketing from Michigan State University in 1970. She retired from Kraft Foods in 2006 after 36 years in corporate food marketing and marketing communications management.

A community volunteer, Patsy serves on the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana Advisory Board and the Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council, in addition to the President’s Council Advisory Board. She is a former member of the Health and Human Sciences Alumni Board. Patsy held several offices from 2006 through 2013, including president and treasurer. She serves her community’s Discover Indianapolis Club in Fishers, holding several leadership roles for over 10 years.

Patsy has received several honors, including the Purdue University Nutrition Science Department Hall of Fame recipient in 2009 and the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. She also received the college’s Gold and Black Award in 2016, an honor reserved for donors who have moved the college forward by committing exceptional financial resources.

In addition to endowing two scholarships, the Patsy J. Mellott Scholarship and Patsy J. Mellott HHS Scholarship, she established the Patsy J. Mellott Teaching Innovation Award in the College of Health and Human Sciences in 2013. In 2015, she endowed the Patsy J. Mellott Women’s Tennis Coach Performance Award. She is a lead donor in the Christine M. Ladisch Faculty Leadership Award and the Purdue Women’s Network Virginia C. Meredith Scholarship for the College of Health and Human Sciences.