Business school adds business analytics concentration, jumps on big data trend

Media Credit: Garrett Mills | Hatchet Photographer

Murat Tarimcilar, a decision sciences professor, helped design an undergraduate concentration in business analytics. The concentration, which will be offered in the fall, teaches students how to use and understand massive amounts of data.

Starting next fall, undergraduate students in the GW School of Business will start mastering big data.

The school will offer an undergraduate concentration in business analytics in the fall after professors spent the last eight months crafting the curriculum. The new program could bring in more students, which comes as graduate enrollment has lagged and led officials to make 5 percent cuts across all divisions.

The new concentration, which teaches students how to use and understand massive amounts of data, also comes two years after the launch of a master’s degree in business analytics. The size of that program has doubled in that time frame and now boasts about 30 students.

The business analytics concentration will likely begin with about 20 students in their sophomore and junior years, said Murat Tarimcilar, a decision sciences professor who helped create the concentration.

Tarimcilar said students would take introductory courses in business analytics, data mining and data warehousing. He said additional electives for the concentration could come from all the school’s departments.

At a faculty meeting last week, Tarimcilar said professors pitched other potential elective classes to add to the concentration, like “big data with forensic accounting.”

Big data has become a buzzword in higher education, and companies are increasingly looking for students with experience in data mining. Duke University, one of GW’s peer schools, offers a concentration in decision sciences that includes analytics courses. Nine of GW’s peers, including New York, Tufts and Southern Methodist universities, have master’s degrees in business analytics.

“We think that this is not a passing phase – the business analytics idea is here to stay,” Tarimcilar said. “With what’s going on with technology, with data, I think every company is going to need people who really understand how to deal with this data, how to take the data into their daily decision-making processes.”

Tarimcilar said while there used to be a small department in the business school that focused on data, now it’s a skill that is highlighted in every course.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a financial analyst or an accountant or if you’re an HR person, you still have to deal with a lot of this data,” Tarimcilar said. “This is a request of almost every company that’s hiring.”

He said the concentration will have more of a focus on applying data analytics skills to real life than the graduate degree. Undergraduates will use software like Excel for the course instead of coding their own programs.

Tarimcilar said 15 credits will make up the two-year program. Non-business school students will also have the opportunity to petition for an 18-credit minor in business analytics.

Homayoun Khamooshi, an associate industry professor of decision sciences and the chair of the project management program, helped develop a course in project management for the concentration.

Project management teaches students how to make long-term plans for companies in the public sector and government organizations, which Khamooshi said gives them the skills to run a business.

“A lot of business courses that people do are more of general knowledge and basics of business,” Khamooshi said. “None of these courses provide them with the real tools for running a business and all that, so this would be a perfect complement for anything else that they do.”

Allen Robinson, the human resources manager at Pinnacle Solutions, a business consulting firm based in Alabama, said he looks for applicants who have the ability to analyze big data, and said introducing it earlier will give graduates a “competitive edge.”

“It warrants having that level of attention early in your school career,” Robinson said. “That’s a solid skill set that any company would be happy to have on the team.”

Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.

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