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2020 MSBA Newsletter

The College of Business at the University Montana is marking the completion of its fourth year for the Master of Science in Business analytics program. This innovative and cutting-edge curriculum trains candidates in the critical skills needed in today’s business environment:  leveraging advanced data analytics at the intersection of business, statistics, and computing. Throughout the program students develop technical skills, including programming and statistical analysis, to discover insights and transform them into compelling stories to aid in decision-making at all levels of business, from local small business to Fortune 500 companies, government institutions, and non-profit organizations. Through partnership development with other campus programs, including the distinguished Franke College of Forestry and Conservation at UMT to bring the power of data analytics to solving global problems related to conservation and the environment. Students can customize their curriculum with joint MBA, J.D., Environmental Sciences, and Sustainability in Business Certificates. UMT’s MSBA is a premier, multimodal program providing in-person and online collaborative instruction designed for working professionals and aspiring undergraduate students to supercharge their career with a cutting-edge skillset.

This semester students faced the COVID-19 pandemic, juggling their coursework, part-time jobs and internships, with family needs and shelter-in-place restrictions.  Whether it was relocating to other cities in Montana to help family or graduating into a very stressful and uncertain economic environment, this group of students demonstrated a capacity to persevere under trying conditions, to adapt to changing circumstances in real time, and to excel despite adversity.  Several of them tackled interesting projects mid-stream to apply their skills to analyzing the COVID data. We could not be prouder of them.

Key Faculty – Your Guides to a Successful Career in Business Analytics:

COURSEWORK & PROJECTS   

The core of the business analytics program provides a balanced but comprehensive approach to the field of big data analytics, with hands-on technical skills coupled with soft business skills and an informed view of the trajectory of data science in decision-making (in business and otherwise). Students combine electives, ranging from machine learning and cybersecurity to sustainability in business and project management, with the core curriculum to fine-tune their learning experience and best fit their post-graduation goals.

The Applied Data Analytics & Text-Mining courses taught by Professor John Chandler, are the “nuts and bolts” of the program. During the semester, students extract, transform, load, manage and analyze over 90 million rows of data using Google Big Query and Google Cloud, R & Python, and SQL. In the Text-Mining course, students use APIs (such as Twitter’s and Reddit’s) and web scraping techniques to acquire real-time data from sources that interest them. By the end of the course students will have learned the fundamentals of programmatically using APIs and web scraping techniques to acquire their own data, clean vast amounts of data, manage and query data via the cloud and local databases, and professional reporting on statistical analyses performed. Students typically combine these courses with Prof. Chandler’s Visualization & Storytelling with Data, which focuses on the presentation of key insights derived from analyses, a crucial skill in a world deluged with data.

Professor Jakki Mohr’s Big Data & Innovation courseplaces students into the organizational challenges in leveraging advanced analytics to drive innovation and create value. Topics discussed include the cultural challenges, the structural challenges, the unintended consequences of relying on data and algorithms in decisions, as well as need for new business models and disruptive innovation to fully leverage the power of analytics. In addition, students tackle privacy and governance issues, addressing conflicting views on the management of personal data.  Students develop their own “voice” and point of view on these various topics by writing blog posts. A primary takeaway for students is the critical thinking necessary to harness the innovative and creative processes surrounding data and technology, and perhaps most importantly, learning how to ask the “right” questions. Their wonderful blog posts can be found here.

Business Intelligence, led by Professor Jason Triche, also provides students with a managerial or executive point of view, by first reviewing organizational decision-making processes and how they relate to the structuring of data, databases, data warehouses, data marts, etc. Next, students integrate the various data channels into a dashboard to facilitate decision-making. Every student takes an active role in the education of their cohort, by providing to the class a live demonstration and/or workshop on a current technology, such as Hadoop, Salesforce, Apache, NetSuite– just a few of the technologies discussed. As a final project, students tackle the real-world challenge of creating forecast models of COVID-19 for various countries.

Rounding out the business analytics core curriculum is a deep dive into real-world marketing research, surveying, and analysis. In Professor Simona Stan’s Advanced Marketing Research class, students form teams to assist local and national organizations in deriving key insights about their target markets, exposing weaknesses and unseen strengths, and discovering potential opportunities. Groups confer directly with clients to create a survey, partner with organizations for distribution, and then compile results, analyze (SPSS, Excel, R) and present findings and recommendations.

The Capstone Project, guided by Jason Wiener, requires students to harness the totality of their skills and knowledge gained throughout the core curriculum in conjunction with electives, internships, professional work experience, or otherwise, into a single formative project. This is an opportunity for a student to showcase all their learning by partnering with an outside business or organization, or simply pursuing a topic of interest to the student. Successful Capstone Projects display the following:

  • Knowledge & Application of a wide range of analytical techniques, technologies, and programming tools for both structured and unstructured data and a keen understanding of the appropriate analytical techniques to solve any business or organizational questions and problems.
  • Effective Story Telling – Students bring the data to life using a suite of technologies and tools to create an impactful narrative in support of key insights from analyses. A key determinant of success capstone is the ability to translate technical minutiae into actionable takeaways for non-technical managers and executives.
  • Critical & Innovative Thinking – As demonstrated by the approach and techniques utilized by the student, as well as the questions asked. A defining metric is the ability for students to consider new and different solutions and to ask questions that lead to a fundamentally different way of approaching old problems.
Program Director – Dawn Hambrick 😊 Your Guide to Admissions, Enrollment, Advising, Financial Aid, Registration, Electives, and the go-to person for students and faculty. Dawn.Hambrick@umontana.eduundefined 

2020 MSBA LIFE

MSBA SHOWCASE 2020 

Like much else, the Spring MSBA Showcase could not be convened IRL to protect public health. Instead, the 2020 cohort pivoted to online in parallel with instruction at UM.
See the 2020 MSBA Showcase online: www.umontanamsba.com

Name: Aspen Runkel  | Title: A New Angle on Analytics

Synopsis: The growing popularity of podcasts has given Justin Angle, Associate Professor of Marketing and host of A New Angle podcast, the opportunity to share conversations with cool people doing awesome things. This project strives to analyze the podcast’s historical data from its humble beginnings in January 2018 and optimize its analytics for analysis and decision making for years to come.

Name: Michael Schwartz | Title: Scraping for Jobs: An Exploration in Data Engineering & Dashboarding

Synopsis: Whether a first-time job seeker or someone looking to re-skill and change careers, the goal of this project is to scrape job listings in the data (science, engineering, analytics) space to better understand the skills and technological proficiencies that companies are looking for in ideal candidates.

Name: Sarah Thompson | Title: Exploring Peak Shaving for the University of Montana’s Energy Demand

Synopsis: This project seeks to identify time intervals where The University of Montana’s energy demand is larger than 5500W by collecting, cleaning, and displaying power data in near real-time. By providing UM Facilities with visibility into the university’s current power usage, they can utilize the tools at their disposal to reduce the peak energy demand interval and ultimately save money.

Name: Austin Bankston  | Title: Snapshot into the Prevalence of Youth Vaping and Tobacco Use

Synopsis: To best prepare for the future of healthcare, it is important to understand and predict youth health trends. This data set specifically targets the demographics of youth using tobacco and vaping. Outcomes of this data set will assist in targeting and creating marketing for prevention of use in youth.

Name: Jordan McNea | Title: Social Media Engagement for 2020 Presidential Candidates

Synopsis: Supporters of the various candidates for president use social media in wildly different ways. This project aims to create data pipelines to capture months of Reddit comments and Twitter mentions of the candidates, analyze the data using various natural language processing (NLP) techniques, and visualize the data with interactive dashboards.

Name: Ross Stokes | Title: The Yellowstone River, How Much?

Synopsis: Various time series analysis techniques were used to predict the flows of the Yellowstone River during Spring runoff. These predictions were calculated using Snotel and weather data. It is important for river guides and fishing guides to have a good idea of what the flows are going to be during the runoff season while booking trips in advance. Many guides have had to cancel bookings due to unfavorable river conditions. If guides have this information, they will be able to recommend other alternatives if the conditions at the Yellowstone River are not desirable.

Name: Alistair Bernhard |Title: Stock Price Risk Analysis and Forecast

Synopsis: Many Americans do not own a stock or have not even thought about creating a financial portfolio. This manual will guide a user to better understand the stock market, how to reduce the risk of their portfolios, and forecast closing stock prices a couple days into the future.

Name: Taylor Toepke |Title: Analysis of Recidivism for Montana Department of Corrections

Synopsis: Montana Correctional Enterprises, a division of DOC, provides vocational training to current inmates in the Montana prison system. This project aims to analyze the inmates that make their way through the system to better understand the success of MCE, recidivism, and the factors that contribute to an inmate’s return.

“I joined the MSBA program at the University of Montana after completing my Bachelor’s in Marketing in 2018. The truth is, I knew I needed additional technical skills to do well as a marketing professional in modern business. The MSBA at UMT was the perfect opportunity to improve those skills and enjoy the hidden gem of Missoula, Montana.”

PARTNERS                              

Partnerships with the business community and other organizations are a differentiating feature for our program. These partnerships include local, regional, and national companies, non-profits, and business organizations. Our latest partnerships with Montana-based companies, TadPull and LumenAd, offer students the unique opportunity to take hands-on classes at the intersection of digital marketing, ecommerce, and advanced analytics.

SOME of the Guest Speakers:

  • Kayla Gonzales – Acoustics (IBM spinoff) – Product Manager – Stressed the importance of having the technical prowess combined with sufficient business acumen to bridge the gap between stakeholders.
  • Philip Churchill – Nike –Senior Marketing Analytics Manager – Shared case studies using causal impact modeling, multi-touch attribution modeling, and social listening
  • Taylor Brugh – Bridge Partners – Management Consultant – Shared professional communication and project management
  • Stefani Weimholt – Ovative – Senior Analyst – Discussed dashboard design and data visualization for decision makers

REFLECTING BACK

How has the program evolved over the last four years?

The applicant pool and level of competitiveness and quality of students attracted to the program continues to improve, year after year, driving increased quality in classes, seminars, presentations, and projects.

Prof. Jason Triche

The program has matured significantly in the last 4 years and has attracted strong cohorts from diverse backgrounds. Staying ahead of the curve combined with a strong student focus has evolved into an amazing program.

Prof. Simona Stan

What excites you about the program the most?

We continue to develop partnerships with other campus programs, including the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation to bring the power of data analytics to solving global problems related to conservation and the environment

Prof. Jakki Mohr

The cohesiveness of the students in the program. They help each other out and want everyone to succeed.

– Prof. Jason Triche

LOOKING AHEAD

What gets you pumped up for the future of the program?

The outstanding job placements for our graduates continues to be a highlight of the program, whether large companies such as IBM, Disney, and Deloitte, mid-size such as Moss Adams and FAST Enterprises, or smaller companies such as TadPull or Adswerve.

Jakki Mohr

Data science intersects technical realms (statistics, computer science) and decision making, at-large. Now students can focus their energies on specialized learning tracks, providing amore student-centric program. Data science changes quickly, as does our program.

– John Chandler

Why Should You Consider UM’s MSBA Program?

Develop and Hone Your Analytics Skill Set Our program gives students the practical and marketable skills to successfully leverage data in a variety of contexts. Students gather data, including text and images, clean and transform the data, perform appropriate statistical analyses to solve problems and aid in decision-making. Hands-on instruction in leading programming languages, database management systems, and cloud computing platforms.Personalize Your Program Integrate internships at Fortune 500 companies or local tech start-ups with your Capstone (final project) to create a unique academic experience. Incorporate a Cybersecurity or Sustainability in Business certificate into your coursework. Interested in automation and the future of work? Add a machine learning or artificial intelligence class.
Hone Data Visualization & Storytelling Skills Become a modern-day storyteller: Learn to transform raw data into a compelling visual story for boardroom meetings or client presentations.Curriculum Guided by Industry Partnership and Student Engagement Student feedback on coursework along with deep, ongoing industry partnerships guide faculty to adjust projects and lecture material in real-time.
Innovation & Creativity With all businesses facing disruption, the future requires breakthrough thinking. Our evolving curriculum challenges students to think outside the box and to break what ‘works’ and make it better. Importantly, this approach is grounded in data governance practices that honor privacy and security concerns.Exceptional Career Opportunities Our students combine technical skills with business and domain expertise, leading to a 100% job placement rate. Network with alumni, work in the local tech-scene, become a consultant; our graduates and industry partners will help you navigate the college-to-career transition.

To learn more, visit us here.

If you are interested in learning more about the program – or know someone who is – please contact

Jakki  Mohr at jakki.mohr@umontana.edu or

Dawn Hambrick at  dawn.hambrick@umontana.edu

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