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Emory’s New MS In Business Analytics

Emory's Goizueta School of Business is ranked 20th among the best U.S. business schools by Poets&Quants.

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

Goizueta Business School’s new MSBA will launch this fall, directed by Ramnath Chellappa

Program Name: Master of Science in Business Analytics

School: Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

Length of Program: 10 months

Cost: $58,000

Get summary and contact information here.

Seventy-five percent of companies in the U.S. and UK are actively working to increase their organizational use of analytics, while the average starting salary of recent Master of Science in Business Analytics graduates in the U.S. is $90,000. So says the web page for the new MSBA program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, certainly reasons enough for the launch of the new program this fall. But they are not the school’s only reasons.

Ramnath Chellappa, associate professor of information systems and operations management at Goizueta and academic director of the new MSBA program, doesn’t want to produce number crunchers — though those skills are a necessary part of the role. Instead, Chellappa wants to make creative partners who work with management to craft the questions as well as the answers to business problems.

“Our goal is that they speak all those languages fluently,” he tells Poets&Quants. “Goizueta has always been famous for how we churn out our MBA in terms of how we polish them and their ability to be in the marketplace as business leaders, and my goal here is that we will do all that quant and tech stuff to them, but at no point forgetting that these are Goizueta products. That’s the idea of this program.”

He has been putting together the new program for almost three years, and as a professor new to administration, the culmination of the effort is “very exciting. It’s a learning process, but very exciting. Analytics is now one of our strategic initiatives at the school, and making this happen is a big part of who we are. Honestly, I have learned a lot from other schools that have started MSBA programs, like Texas and Minnesota, because we’re all academic colleagues first. Our community has been having many teaching conferences where we try to understand how you regularize some of this curriculum and learn more from each other, so I have to give a shout-out to my colleagues for helping me get this program underway.”

Goizueta Associate Professor Ramnath Chellappa, academic director of the new MSBA program

Why is Emory launching the program? “The story used to be that there’s a business person and a tech person, and they just can’t talk to each other because they speak two completely different languages. This is my 20th year of teaching and I’ve been hearing this story all the way through pretty much every year. But what is now interesting, it seems in the recent past there’s a business person, a tech person, and a data person — three people who can’t talk to each other. Almost as a response to that, many business schools — particularly my area, the information systems group — have begun to put together these kinds of programs.”

How is it different from what else is on the market? “Basically, the idea is that we’re not creating yet another statistician or computer scientist, but rather we’re creating a business data scientist. This is not a generic data science program, but our absolute goal is to create a business data scientist — not a back-end operator who is coming up with models and so on, who cannot interface with the client and all that stuff.

“In some ways I see these people at some levels obviously immediately suited for consulting, but also I think there is a need for them to be in the verticals. I see a unique role for them. They’re not simply solution providers, as we used to think about these typical data people before, meaning ‘I have some intuition, some gut feeling, why don’t we do some data analysis and figure out a way to support?’ — sort of how the top management people used to think of them. But rather, I believe these people would actually help define the questions themselves.”

Who is the ideal applicant and student? Eighteen applicants already have been accepted to the program, with an average GMAT of 722 — something that makes Chellappa chuckle happily. “It was great to see that,” he says.

“The ideal candidate has some programming and basic knowledge of SQL (structured query language) and databases,” Chellappa says. “But truly the ideal candidate is somebody who has a quantitative background — they could be coming from engineering or business — but then really an aptitude for business. And by requiring them to have this basic programming knowledge — and we don’t actually specify what they need to have — we are actually putting them through an extensive boot camp, a business consulting boot camp where they will learn how consulting folks approach problems and so on, a math boot camp, and a tech boot camp.”

Goizueta also is offering a BBA-MSBA joint degree, so the top echelons of Emory undergrads will also be eligible for the program. Chellappa says the first cohort will be small, capped at 35 students. It won’t be a problem to fill out the ranks: In the first round in December, with no advertising, the program received more than 100 applications.

What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? GMAT or GRE are required; so is an essay. “In terms of the admissions process, we are doing everything we do for MBAs,” Chellappa says. That includes an interview.

What are the application deadlines? The Round 1 deadline was January 3. Round 2 ends March 3, with notifications going out April 14 and deposits due May 15; Round 3 deadline is April 3, with notifications May 26 and deposits due June 15.

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? “There are a lot of students who clearly show aptitude, but maybe not on paper. They don’t have something that they’ve done with programming and so on, so we are pointing them towards resources where they can prepare for the course.” The program has an office that can be contacted by email at msba@emory.edu.

What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? A pre-fall term boot camp puts students through the paces in math, tech, and business consulting; also in the pre-term is a 2-credit business statistics course, “because a lot of engineers — having been one myself — we don’t really learn that much statistics,” Chellappa says. The 15-credit fall semester has five courses: Managing Big Data, Intro to Business Analytics, Machine Learning I, Data Visualization, and Social Network Analysis. The 14-credit spring semester is comprised of Machine Learning II, Decision Analytics & Optimization, two electives chosen from Digital Marketing & Social Media Strategy, Revenue Management & Supply Chain Analytics, HR Analytics, and Sports Analytics, and finally, the capstone experiential learning course.

“I am hoping one of the distinguishing elements of our program is going to be the emphasis on people analytics,” Chellappa says. “There’s a lot of work done on regular marketing and advertising, but I think we may be able to distinguish ourselves. We actually are going to offer an HR Analytics elective in the spring.

Please describe the capstone project. The program will have two boards, an executive board and a curriculum advisory board, and talks are ongoing to establish three or four founding partners, Chellappa says. The partners would have “vertical exclusivity,” he says — for example, “if we had Delta Airlines, we would not have American.” The idea is that students would effectively be employees of select companies — “so it’s not like these folks are simply throwing money at it and just giving us some projects that they don’t want to do.” Instead, “they actually act as mentors who will meet on a regular basis. It’s very important that they do that from a business point of view, because they will learn a lot of ways to massage the data, clean the data, and do things with the data. It’s a small program, so we don’t really have any internships. So that component is very important for the capstone. Right now I’m in discussions with a number of firms.”

What do you expect student outcomes to be? “We’re very clear that this is a professional program,” Chellappa says. “We’re not training Ph.D.s. This is a professional program. … There are two outcomes that are part of my initial goal. One is that this program will indeed put out that person into the vertical who can make a difference by bringing data-driven thinking into any part of an organization.

“A second component that is actually personally very important to me is that by bringing these courses in, we will also seed the rest of our MBA program with spillover benefits. The idea is that everything that is taught in the MSBA program, we will offer a version for the MBAs and DBAs. I think it is very important that the MBAs learn to talk the talk — they are going to be the ones who are hiring and interfacing with all these other folks. So that spillover benefit is a personal goal of mine.”

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