ASU’s new master’s program is open for business

ASU is helping graduate students transition into the booming big data field with a new master’s of business analytics program that opened this fall.

Data analytics is a new trend in the technology industry, and companies are looking for students to provide the analytical talent necessary to organize large amounts of data, said Roxanne Reddick, director of graduate student and career services at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“The job market locally and nationally is very healthy for this skill set,” Reddick said.

This is made evident by all types of employers looking for the right people and the right skills to translate their data into actionable business decisions, she said.

Supply chain management professor Daniel Brooks teaches the Intro to Analytical Modeling and the program’s capstone applied project and helped create the curriculum.

“One of the benefits of data science and business analytics more generally is that it’s not discipline-specific,” he said. “It can add value in lots of different areas of an organization.”

The new program has two major components: One is the modeling side, which is identifying the most relevant data, how to best collect it and then analyzing it. The other side involves the various ways that are useful for managing and organizing large amounts of data, Brooks said.

And it’s not just analytical skills the students are learning. Graduate and career services work with the students to explore their skills, define and plan their career trajectory and help them connect with future employers, Reddick said.

As far as the experience the students have walking into the program, it is mixed, she said. Some students came in straight from business and non-business fields, while others decided to take some time off from the workforce to refine their skills.

Bobby Hunnicutt, a student in the program, said he had no experience in the data analytics field before deciding to apply. He had previously worked in the financial sector with helping financial advisers select insurance products until recently receiving a new job offer from a local corporation.

He said he credits the new opportunity to the master’s program because of the skills he is learning.

As far as the workload, Hunnicutt said he estimates a typical student will spend around 50 hours a week on campus doing mainly group-based work, which involves case studies, Excel models and conveying their findings in a way that other people can understand.

Jeffrey M. Stanton, associate dean and head of the data science program at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, said new companies are definitely looking for both technical and soft skills when they are finding talent.

“Having great skills in data analysis or coding or creating visualizations on day one is important so that the newcomer can hit the ground running and be solid as an individual contributor,” he said. “As time goes on, however, the ability to collaborate, communicate and become a ‘trusted advisor’ for decision makers is of equal importance.”

At air INTEGRATED, a Phoenix-based full service advertising and public relations firm, employees use analytics to help its clients have an edge over their competitors, said Fred Pratt, data statistician and vice president of marketing analytics and technology.

Pratt said one of the most important skills someone can have in this field, besides the technical ones, is a passion for solving puzzles and being able to present data in a way that’s easily understandable.

For Marco Benvenuti, chief analytics and product officer at Duetto Research, the hard part is finding applicants that not only have data analytics experience but also an understanding of revenue management and the hotel industry.

“I believe companies like us are trying to find applied analytics, which is basically analytics that apply to a specific line of business,” he said. “And unfortunately, if you are extremely smart and an extremely talented person, but if you have no background in that specific business, then you are not going to be the right candidate nor be successful.”

Therefore, Duetto created a customer success program that pairs up hotel professionals that have revenue management skills with talented college graduates they’ve recruited. This allows both parties to learn from each other, and Benvenuti said it has been very successful so far.

Students in the program also have the opportunity to work with local organizations during their capstone applied project course to solve real-world problems, Brooks said.

The capstone project focuses on students figuring out what is the most cost-effective way for a company to improve an area, deciding on what tools to use and then converting the knowledge they received from the rest of the program in creating value for the client, he said.

There is a wide range of organizations, from small to large, and in all areas of the organization’s operations, from their supply functions and general management to customer service.

“One key objective of the program is the set of skills that they acquire during the program enable them to identify and materially improve areas of an organization’s operations using analytical tools and the data that’s available,” Brooks said.

ASU will also be adding an online version of the master’s program and a bachelor’s of data analytics in 2014.


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