The rise of big data is driving the growing numbers of business analytics degrees awarded in the U.S., including those conferred by the Naveen Jindal School of Management. Student enrollment in JSOM’s MS in Business Analytics program has skyrocketed in the last few years, and with that growth, says program director Kashif Saeed, has come the challenge of engaging students beyond curriculum in order to keep pace with daily changes in the data field.
“We started this program a little over three years ago with about 30 students,” Saeed said. “Today it has grown to more than 700, and it’s probably going to grow a little more.”
Ranked ninth in the country by TFE Times (formerly The Financial Engineer), MS in Business Analytics is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degree program that provides students with a broad foundation in business analytics and data science. Core courses provide a foundation in the analytics domain, and electives allow for business application in finance, marketing, healthcare, IT and operations.
Initially, Saeed said, “we only had one club that was doing some analytics-related activities, but we thought one club cannot cater to 700 students.”
So last summer, he started strategizing with students and launched data science, big data and marketing analytics organizations to match student interest in these fields.
“The biggest benefit of the clubs is that students have the ability to build relationships that lead them to internships and jobs,” Saeed said.
The Data Science Club says it is connecting the dots to build a networked society of students, industry professionals, faculty and companies.
“The club connects us to the real world. We reach out to industry professionals, go to meetups and ask them to mentor us. We do workshops with companies that are willing to give us data sets to address a challenge,” club secretary Akash Chandrakar, an MS in Business Analytics major, said.
“My challenge is to get students interested in data science and to understand that they can do well in the program,” said Keshav Jaiswal, a business analytics student who is the club’s vice president of public relations. “We say data is like crude oil you can store, and refining is like data science. If you’re not into storing data, but you want to use data to learn how to forecast, data science touches that.”
Big Data Club
Advanced degrees that cover big data teach students how to distill huge data sets into valuable insights for organizations. A 2013 article in Science Daily reported that 90 percent of the data at that time had been gathered in the previous two years. Moving forward in time, that translates into big opportunities for students.
“We are always looking for new student talent,” said Big Data Club member and business analytics student Nitin Arora. “Our first club event was the biggest of the three clubs with a three-day workshop filled with 250 students.”
Currently an intern for AT&T, Arora knows firsthand the value of the clubs.
“What is taught at UTD is limited because data is vast,” Arora said. “For example, in our club, we learn data processing frameworks like Apache Spark, Flink and Storm. No one knows about them, but we learn from professionals participating in our club.
“Also important, we train students to become leaders, to learn soft skills so that they can give a mind-blowing interview.”
About half of MS in Business Analytics students come into the program with technology backgrounds, according to Saeed. The rest have business backgrounds and typically choose the program’s Marketing Analytics Track, where they learn about marketing research, customer and social media marketing insights, customer relationship management and web analytics.
“We’ve had speakers from IBM Watson Analytics talk about how data is used in healthcare, from connecting doctors and patients and prescription reminders to lowering readmission rates and monitoring bed utilization,” club president Jatin Garg said.
Women in STEM
According to data published in Forbes in March 2014, women hold nearly half of U.S. jobs but make up less than 25 percent of the STEM-job workforce. Of the more than 700 students in the MS in Business Analytics program, 61 percent are male and 39 percent are female.
Swati Singh, MAC vice president and data analyst intern at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, sees the club as a top priority. “It has given me a different perspective. We need much support, and I’m in touch with so many people that I never thought I would have met, such as people from Deloitte and KPMG,” she said.
Data Science Club treasurer Haiyun Chen chose her path because she found it interesting that companies like Amazon use customized data to influence purchases.
“It’s interesting to use data to solve problems,” Chen said. “And, if I succeed in this field, I can inspire more girls to come into this field.”
For students considering the MS in Business Analytics program, club leaders encourage a club meeting visit.
— Susan Yost