School of Business Adds Business Analytics to List of Majors

It isn’t often a new major is created at Manhattan College. But with the changing media climate, a new major for those in the school of business is drawing interest. This new major, that has many students claiming it as their double major, is business analytics.

Four years ago, there was a realization within the school of business that a more in-depth focus of business was needed especially in our tech-heavy world. Stemming from the computer information systems (CIS) program, the analysis of how businesses work birthed this brand new major that many students have been interested in in the past. Previously, it has only been available as a secondary major that had to be taken with another. Now, they are able to focus on it as their only field of study.

Popularity of the business analytics major has been increasing and gaining interest of many students within the school. This area of study is scheduled to be one of the fastest-growing business careers for the next 10 years, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

The job growth is just another beneficial aspect the school boasts about on the webpage, along with mentions of “companies, both large and small, are hiring new analysts each year to help optimize their business processes and services” and “analytics is also one of the most practical and hands-on fields in today’s world.”

Budding analysts have a variety of fields they can enter, ranging from healthcare to politics to social media. This can all happen from a business perspective, allowing students to collect, represent, visualize, analyze and reason about data.

Marc Waldman, Mehmet Ulema and Musa Jafar are some of the faculty within the department who are among the most involved in MC’s newest program. These three teach classes such as “Business Data and Information Management” and web development courses and have extensive experience in business.

“Business analytics is not limited to numeric data. It extends into all things digital. When a customer uses their mobile device to buy an item, write a comment, express an opinion, recommend a product, send an email, take a picture or video, download a song or a movie, or ask for driving directions this is all data and can also be incorporated into the analytics process,” Waldman said.

In his own words, Jafar defines business analytics as emphasizing, “the comprehension of data analytics algorithms and the mastery of the software used to process and analyze the data. When coupled with business knowledge and acumen it allows an organization to analyze large amounts of data, from different sources, to gain insight into their operations.”

By taking the science of data and studying it closely, students can benefit from what they learn and ultimately, what the companies they will work for can learn. It is the main reason as to why the major was such an important one to start-up: it is a growing major throughout the world.

Since the major was just introduced as a full major, many students are double majoring with business analytics. Professors like Ulema realize students want to get the most out of their education, and by double majoring students can get a wider range of experience.

“Business analytics is the practical business application of computing, statistics, data mining and other technologies. Whether it is finance, accounting, management, healthcare or government (just to mention a few), every aspect of business has both a data and an analytics component. Basically data and its associated analytics touches on every major in the school of business and may well be of interest to those in the social sciences and humanities,” Ulema said.

The Business Analytics Competition and Conference has helped increase student awareness of the new major at MC. While the competition/conference hybrid began only two years ago, MC students have already proved successful.

Last semester, the representatives for the school of business went up against students from schools like Pace University, University of Waterloo and the University of San Francisco and won the competition. Students gained more knowledge about the field and eventually, the school of business gained another major.

“The business analytics major is meant to train our students in the core competencies of the subject…all from a business perspective. This, coupled with the rapid advancements in the field, unprecedented availability of data, and a flourishing software eco-system designed to assist the data analyst, led us to expand and enhance the curriculum into a full standalone major,” Jafar said.

From a student point-of-view, many praise the program for its incorporation with other programs much like computer information systems where the new major originally stemmed from. Typical descriptions were “interesting” and “fascinating” when it came to scrutinizing data in their courses. It was especially beneficial for senior Chris Sandoli, who took a class with Jafar previously.

“The database and data mining classes that I had to take [have been the most interesting]. In particular my data mining class, taken last year with Professor Jafar, was the most interesting course within the major. We did a semester long project that involved us extracting tweets from twitter for each of our particular topics of the project. Then we had to clean, organize, and then analyze the data to find any patterns that the data is able to tell us,” Sandoli said.

Other students have memorable class stories like Sandoli’s, like Stefan Hoeller who is double majoring in finance and economics.

“I think the programs we get exposed too are pretty interesting (R, Tableau, SQL…). But one thing that really stayed in my mind was a group project we did in Advanced Statistics where my group used different machine-learning techniques to predict survival on the Titanic based on demographic variables,” Hoeller said.

Both Hoeller and Sandoli have had internships, although they weren’t specifically geared toward analytics. But both students have been able to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to their work.

“Since the full major was just launched we don’t have a complete internship picture. However, our co-major students have had internships in financial services companies, public utilities, high-end online fashion stores, and other web-based business ventures. Nevertheless, we cannot think of a modern organization that is not data driven … Whether it is academic, utility, government or financial, the more data savvy our students are the more valuable they are” Ulema said.

It has proved to be beneficial for past students who chose the secondary major when it started gaining popularity years ago. Jacqueline Curran, a recent graduate, spoke highly of the program and how it has helped her.

“The most interesting part was the projects and topics I had the opportunity to research. Having already graduated, I had the opportunity to do research at Microsoft this past summer. I think it’s an important major to have because it is a flourishing field with a lot of interesting facets,” Curran said.

Now that business analytics is officially a full major, the school expects more students to become interested in one of the fastest-growing areas of study for business.

“Students who have a strong interest in learning analytical techniques that involve statistics, computing, and core business subjects [would benefit the best from this major] …This area is perhaps the hottest area in business today…” Waldman said.