Paul College Launches New Master's in Business Analytics

UNH offers the only accredited graduate business analytics program in New Hampshire
students in a master's business analytics class

Thanks to the explosion of mobile devices, apps and online transactions—a continuous stream of data flows into businesses every day. This influx of information puts a demand on organizations to process and analyze a variety of data points  to  better  guide corporate decision making. Now more than ever, companies are looking for professionals who can quickly and expertly collect, interpret, and analyze data.  

To help fill this gap, the Peter T. Paul College School of Business and Economics will offer the only accredited graduate business analytics program in New Hampshire in fall 2020. Taught by faculty immersed in data-driven research, students will get exposure to the latest challenges businesses face and earn a graduate degree from AACSB-accredited Paul College – recognized in the top 5% of business schools worldwide for its high-quality programs. 

Why Focus on Business Analytics?  

The idea to create a graduate program focused solely on business analytics was initially sparked by the increasing number of Paul College undergraduate and MBA students interested in business analytics electives, according to Khole Gwebu, associate professor and chair of the Department of Decision Sciences at Paul College.  

“But more than anything, the graduate program was created to meet the market demand for knowledge in analytics across all industries,” Gwebu said.  

Tevfik Aktekin, associate professor of Decision Sciences and director of the new Master of Business Analytics program, said the MSBA appeals to two primary groups of students: undergraduates with engineering, math, or computer science backgrounds looking to enhance their skills, and career professionals working in roles that require them to utilize data and technology to make business decisions.  

“The MSBA program will be challenging, but at the same time you can expect to learn a lot. When you look back, you’ll say ‘I am a different person now in terms of the skills that I acquired than I was before I joined this program.’ The MSBA gives you highly sought-after skills that you can put in a resume and be very competitive in the marketplace,” he said. 

Benefit from a Focused Degree with a Flexible Format 

Unlike an MBA that can include electives in data analytics, the MSBA more narrowly focuses on the three main pillars of business analytics—descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive. Throughout the 36-credit program, students focus on how to collect, clean, organize, and present data; how to build predictive models; and how to use the analysis to prescribe a solution to the given problem.  

Students can finish their program in as little as 9-12 months full-time taking two course per 8-week term, and between 2.5 and 3 years part-time taking one course per term. Both paths require students to take 12 courses, out of which 10 are required and two are electives from UNH’s MBA course offerings.  

Prepare for Jobs in High Demand 

Many firms are having a difficult time hiring and training individuals with the analytical capabilities to help them gain competitive advantage. A recent McKinsey Institute report stated that the United States will face a shortage of about 190,000 data scientists and1.5 million managers and data analysts who can interpret and implement data. Closer to home, demand for business analytics jobs in the New England area is expected to grow up to 22.3% through 2026, according to Hanover Research. 

Jobs that require employees to manage business analytics pay off, too. For example, operations research analysts and management analysts made a median salary of $83,390 in 2018, and the job outlook for this position is expected to grow up to 26% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The MSBA also prepares students for other roles that require strong quantitative analytical skills, such as business intelligence analyst, manager of modeling and analytics, pricing and revenue optimization analyst, and market research analyst.  

Study in a Program that Meets the Needs of International Students 

The full-time program is a great fit for international students, as they can take 12 credit hours per semester, which satisfies the minimum requirement for international students to maintain their visa status.  

Because the MSBA is STEM-designated, international students will be able to apply for a 24-month OPT STEM Extension to their 12-month Optional Practical Training Program (OPT) period. That gives international students the ability to work in the United States for up to 36 months after graduation with no additional visa requirement.They will learn from an international faculty, as well, who understand the needs of international students.  

In addition to being AACSB-accredited, UNH last year was designated R1, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education uses to indicate universities in the United States that engage in the highest levels of research activity. 

UNH's Office of International Students and Scholars also provides immigration advising and support and coordinates programs to bring international, campus, and local communities together. 

Learn from Faculty with Years of Research and Teaching Experience 

Gwebu, along with Aktekin, worked with a team of faculty to design the program based upon their own research and years of university teaching experience.  

Tevfik Aktekin - Aktekin joined the Department of Decisions Sciences at Paul College in 2010. Originally from Turkey, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering before moving to the United States. At George Washington University, he earned an MBA to develop a business background that would allow him to apply for consulting positions. But soon he found himself following a different academic path. Aktekin continued to work on his Ph.D. at George Washington University, changing his course of study to the decision sciences. 

“I was interested in using mathematics to tackle business problems, by using programming and data to increase the power of decision making in business environments,” he said. 

The bulk of Aktekin’s research has focused on Bayesian learning, or sequential learning from data. A Bayesian model is a statistical model in which you use probability to represent all uncertainty within the model, including the uncertainty of the output in addition to the uncertainty of the input (parameters) to the model. 

For example, he used Bayesian models to conduct research in call center service operations. The uncertainty in the number of calls received in a given time period, the length of an average call, the skill sets of customer service agents, and callers’ patience levels all contribute to estimating the operating characteristics of a call center operation and the perceived quality of service by the customers. The proposed methods can assist businesses to more effectively staff call center operations, according to Aktekin. 

“You could hire multiple agents with different skill sets and depending upon on the call volume needed for each skill set, you could route them to specific customers. You could then properly predict how to optimally staff to minimize cost, while maintaining a minimum level of service quality,” he said. 

An award winning teacher, Aktekin received the Peter T. Paul College, Full Time MBA Best Instructor Award in 2017 and Outstanding Assistant Professor Award of Teaching, Research and Service at the university level in 2016.  

Khole Gwebu - Gwebu joined the Decision Sciences Department at Paul College in 2006 and has since conducted research related to data security management, information privacy, and information technology adoption and use. 

He earned his bachelor of commerce (accounting) degree from the University of Lesotho (Zimbabwe) before moving to the United States to pursue both his MBA and Ph.D. at Kent State in Ohio. There, he focused on studying management information systems. Two of the classes he currently teaches--including Data Management and Visualization and eBusiness-- tap into his own work related to the intersection of data and technology.   

In his Data Management and Visualization class, for example, students learn how to harvest data, wrangle it, and present it clearly. 

“Data sets via the web and APIs never come in the way you want them to. You have to spend a lot of time cleaning them, and you need the right technology to do that efficiently and effectively,” Gwebu said.  

Privacy and cybersecurity, major areas of concern across industry sectors, are research areas Gwebu continues to explore. One of his studies looks at how companies react to data breaches and how their reactions influence their overall performance. Gwebu brings real-world research—for example, data related to data breaches--into the classroom, allowing students to work on real problems.