Numbers and statistics definitely are not everyone’s thing, but to those of you who “geek out” when it comes to information systems, you are in luck.
A data analytics major will be introduced to both the College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA) and the College of Arts and Sciences in the fall of 2015.
What exactly is data analytics?
“The difficulty of defining data analytics is that it is used in a number of ways and contexts,” said Professor Bradley Meyer, operations management professor. “It is using data to make decisions and a combination of statistics of computer science or information systems.”
Meyer and a few other professors from fields such as computer science and information systems have been collaborating since last summer to create this program and are now ironing out the final details.
Credit hours may vary depending on the specialty, but the major will consist of 30 core hours and a specialty area that is nine to 17 credits.
“I can’t say at this point how much tweaking will be done and to which courses,” Meyer said. “Many of the classes may have to be tweaked to shift the focus from actuarial applications to a broader range of application of the techniques taught in the class.”
To pair up with the new courses, the major will also be hiring two new professors: one in computer science and one in the business college.
There are also some additional financial needs.
“There are some technology costs, such as for servers, access to databases, perhaps hardware for work stations, and then software cost,” Meyer said.
Students will be able to start taking data analytics classes next fall with the hope that a student who is a current first-year or sophomore could jump into the program and finish it in two years. “But we’re hoping it will bring in a new set of students that maybe in the past wouldn’t have chosen to come to Drake University,” Meyer said.
The students in both the CBPA and College of Arts and Sciences in the data analytics program will need to have certain distinct qualities.
“They need to have strong mathematical skills,” Meyer said. “And think analytically, almost like a natural curiosity.”
Splitting the major between two colleges was a deliberate choice.
“Data analytics can apply to people working with health care or marketing data,” Meyer said.
As Meyer pointed out, this major may even draw in students already pursuing other majors.
Erin Sawasky, a first-year actuarial science major, explained she might be interested in analytics as a career.
“I’ve always liked math and thought about doing something in business and in math,” Sawasky said. “Actuarial science was a good way to mix the two.”
Sawasky sees the new major as providing opportunities for all students at Drake, not just students with an interest in numbers.
“Data analytics is interesting and a good step for the business school and not just for actuarial science,” Sawasky said.
“It’s beneficial to have additional background in data analytics,” Sawasky said. “ It would make resumes more competitive for jobs or internships.”
Sawasky’s observation summarizes the reason the faculty chose to introduce the new major now.
“Employers in Des Moines were saying we have lots and lots of data,” Meyer said. “We need people who can look at it and make sense of it. There’s not enough of them who have been trained in that area.”
Chuck Hinkle, a training developer at Shell Exploration and Production Company and a 1982 Drake University alumnus, could not agree more.
After 33 years of experience in the working world he is an expert in business intelligence with years of background knowledge in data analytics.
“I’m glad to see a curriculum develop around data analytics and for universities to be paying attention to it,” Hinkle said. “It means that companies can hire people who already know the tools and techniques.”
Hinkle is cautious because data analytics is still an emerging field.
“It’s an idea that lots of people are just getting introduced to,” Hinkle said. “Lots of companies will kick off projects so that they don’t get left behind. Lots of those projects will be rushed and will fail.”
However, it is not all bad.
“I see good prospects for this major,” Hinkle said in his email. “More graduates with this major mean more successful projects, which leads to more companies implementing analytics which leads to more demand in the field.”
The CBPA and the College of Arts and Sciences look forward to enrolling students in the data analytics courses this coming fall.
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