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Babson’s New MS In Business Analytics

Program Name: Master Of Science In Business Analytics

School: Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School Of Business

Length of Program: 18 to 24 months

Cost: $55,000

Responding to a clear B-school trend toward a greater appreciation for data and analytics, faculty at Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business have been talking about launching a Master of Science in Business Analytics since about 2010, says Olin Dean William Lamb. The nascent program has gone through several different iterations over the years, but the school’s first step, Lamb says, was to establish an MBA concentration in analytics — both to gauge interest and build capacity. That concentration launched in 2012 “and quickly became our most popular concentration,” he says. “Basically, every time I find a way to add more sections, they tend to fill, it’s such a hot topic.”

Olin took the success of its MBA analytics concentration and two years ago formed a task force that polled industry heavyweights and every department on campus and “came up with this version of the program,” Lamb adds (see Program Profile & Other Fast Facts in our directory). This version is a part-time, blended program — mostly online, but with two required face-to-face sessions each semester.

William Lamb, dean of the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College

It’s the second new MS launched at Babson in a year, following on the heels of an MS in Finance. That doesn’t mean the school’s MBA program is viewed as any less important, Lamb says. “But I’m excited to see the new mix of programs take shape. One of the benefits for us in the way the faculty have structured the finance degree and the analytics degree is that they’re adding to the elective pool for the MBAs as well. We take an approach where we put a lot of the electives in one pool, and anybody in any program can take part in any of the electives. So this is a place where students in all of our programs end up meeting each other and building their network. The fact that I’ve got these two new programs means I’m going to have even more electives in the finance space an more electives in the analytics space, and that will end up helping everybody in all the programs.”

Poets&Quants asked Lamb and Abdul Ali, professor and faculty director, to talk about the new program, which will launch in the fall of 2017.

Why is Babson launching the program?

Last year, 30% of Olin students who have concentrations were concentrating in analytics, Lamb says. “One of the things we’re trying to do is be responsive to the trends in the market,” he says. “People are looking not just for the MBA but also specialized master’s degrees and different types of courses and programs.”

How is it different from what else is on the market?

According to the school, the Babson MSBA “takes a uniquely integrated approach to analytics that develops graduates into data translators who can be the bridge between the technical and business areas of an organization.” As Ali notes, “Almost every other week, some school or other is launching a business analytic or data analytics program, so we needed to differentiate from those schools and leverage our reputation in entrepreneurship. So our tagline is, ‘Business analytics for an entrepreneurial world.'” But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurship or starting a new venture, he adds: Instead, it might mean thinking creatively in a corporate environment and using analytics to come up with new opportunities and manage growth. Key to the whole program is the idea of creating “business translators”; Ali cites a recent report suggesting a need for 2 million to 4 million such translators in the U.S. — meaning those who are “comfortable enough in the IT and statistics world but then come back and talk a business language to the managers of the company. They’re the ones who are in between the IT on the one side and the business side. And we are targeting that space.”

Most analytics programs in the U.S. (see the P&Q directory for leading business schools now offering analytics degrees) are housed in particular academic divisions, Ali continues, and their curricula and course offerings are colored by their division. “For example, if an analytics program is housed in statistics, you’ll see a lot of statistics courses, very few business or applied courses,” he says. “If it is housed in an IT department, you see many IT courses but not many business courses. Ours is truly cross-disciplinary — with IT, statistics, marketing, finance, econ — so we really believe that our program is differentiated from all these other schools.”

Who is the ideal applicant and student?

The program is targeted at working professionals, or as Lamb says, people who are three to 10 years into their career and who have a demonstrated educational or practical foundation in quantitative or technical fields. “We want at least three years of work experience,” Lamb says, “and my guess is we’re going to average somewhere around 10 years of work experience. What we heard from executives the most is that they have talented people who need to add analytics to their capacity but don’t have it in their background. Maybe they do things that are quantitatively oriented, but they need the analytics skills.

“One of the things we heard loud and clear is that they are not able to hire as much talent as they need by going out into the market and bringing in new people — it’s too competitive a space. So they wanted a program they could point people towards who are still working at the company and want to move toward a more strategic role within the company, where they’re not just working with the quantitative information but they’re helping the company make good decisions with the information.”

What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay?

Because of the quantitative intensiveness of the program, Lamb says, a GMAT or GRE score is required from all applicants. There is one essay. Applicants must also have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of 3.0 or above. All applicants must be interviewed, as well.

What are the application deadlines?

Program has rolling admissions; the application process is now open and, Lamb says, inquiries have begun to pour in.

What can a student do to best prepare for the program in advance of its start? Books to read? Podcasts to listen to? TED talks to watch? 

Abdul Ali, Olin associate professor and faculty director

Study the news on big data at the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine, or Businessweek, for example; and watch TED talks on big data and the value of data and business analytics, Ali says, adding, “The students have ample opportunity to learn from these sources.”

What will students learn in the program?

The Olin MSBA consists of 18 required core credits and 12 elective credits, with semesters structured so students typically learn two to three subjects at a time. Core courses are Introduction to Analytics and the Principles of Entrepreneurial Thinking and Acting, Methods (Information Technology; Data Exploration and Analytics), and Applications (Marketing Analytics; Economic Analytics). Students can choose from a variety of analytic elective courses, including Digital Marketing, Supply Chain Management, and Private Data Security, among many others.

Building off its reputation as a top school in entrepreneurship, Olin requires all MSBA students to start with the “entrepreneurial mindset  course,” Ali says, Principles of Entrepreneurial Thinking and Acting. Then comes the deep dive into the world of data: data management, data storage, data manipulation, and so on. Following that are courses in data visualization, data mining, marketing analytics, and economic analytics — forecasting and trendsetting.

Is there a capstone or special project? If so, please describe it.

The final course is a partnership with a local company on a project in which students, working in teams, tackle some specific problem. “It’s experiential, hands-on learning,” Ali says, applying what they’ve learned to a real-life business situation. “We want people to not just get the core skills, which they do get, from IT and from math,” Lamb adds. “The analytics is cool, but they also get an opportunity to see those tools in a couple of different applied settings.”

The first offering of the capstone project will be in May 2018 or January 2019, Lamb notes; the school’s Office of Experiential Learning is currently reaching out to companies to search for projects and establish partnerships for the MSBA program.

What do you expect student outcomes to be?

“Because of the people that we’re targeting, we want to help the students move to a new level of responsibility, and if not a new role, a new level of importance within their organization,” Lamb says, adding that he expects a lot of Babson’s MBA students to segue into the MSBA. “We’re not necessarily meaning to target their movement to a new company or to a brand-new job. We want to work with the companies we have relationships with to help them address the needs they have for more analytical skills and for better decision-making around the things the students learn from analytics.

“For me, the bottom line is having students who are better-equipped to move to that more strategic decision-making level at their company.”

Adds Ali: “We are already known for entrepreneurship and preparing our students to have an entrepreneurial mindset, whether they take a job in a big company or they start a new venture. So what we’re doing with this new program is teach them to be more analytical, combining an entrepreneurial mindset with an analytical mindset — a good combination for them to advance their career.”

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