New concentration helps MBAs make sense of big data

The Freeman School's new MBA concentration in data analytics gives students the skills they need to draw meaningful business inferences from large data sets.

The Freeman School’s new MBA concentration in data analytics gives students the skills they need to draw meaningful business inferences from large data sets.

Big data is one of the business world’s biggest buzzwords, offering organizations the promise of revolutionizing the way they generate value for customers and shareholders. Now, a new MBA concentration gives students the skills they need to help companies transform data into actionable knowledge.

The Freeman School’s analytics concentration prepares students to master the use of large data sets in business, covering everything from obtaining and managing data to using powerful statistical computing applications to draw meaningful business inferences.

“Data analytics is one of the skill sets we identified in the strategic planning process as something that was in strong demand in the business world,” explains Paul Spindt, senior associate dean for faculty. “Everybody from accounting firms to corporations to information-intensive firms are hiring everyone they can get their hands on in the field, so we felt it was a priority for us to get into the game.”

Courses required for the concentration include marketing research, modeling and analytics, econometrics and forecasting, and advanced spreadsheet modeling. Topics covered include data mining, clustering, visualization, machine learning, serial correlation, forecasting, and basic time-series regression models for both stationary and nonstationary data. Students also have the option of completing nine credit hours from the above courses to earn a specialization in analytics.

“There’s been quite a bit of interest among students, and we’re seeing huge interest in the employer community,” says Professor of Management Science Geoff Parker, who teaches modeling and analytics. “It’s an exciting area to be in.”

In the last two years, the Freeman School has hired a number of faculty members specializing in data analytics, including assistant professors Claire Senot, who concentrates on healthcare operations and quality management; Joon Ro, who uses analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies; John Healey, who studies the reaction of financial markets to marketing communications; and Ricky Tan, who focuses on the interface between operations and information systems.

“Our approach is to put data analytics together with industry verticals such as health care,” says Spindt. “We’ve built a stable of outstanding faculty in this area, and we’re continuing to hire.”

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