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Graduate Students Conquer Digital Risk with New Program

By Linda Barrett

June 15, 2023

Faculty member Kristin Branch addresses MS students, faculty, and business leaders the MS Business Analytics Industry Meetup
MS students, faculty, and business leaders participate in the Business Analytics Meet-up. (Paul L. Newby, II /UW-Madison Wisconsin School of Business)

The Master of Science-Business Analytics (MSBA) degree immerses students in an intensive 10-month, fast-paced, STEM-designated curriculum. Students gain hands-on experience through applied consulting activities and building career-ready analytics skills, while receiving opportunities to use data and analytics to drive business decisions.

Observing students’ interest in elements of specialization, the Wisconsin School of Business began offering specific tracks for the Class of 2023. One of the tracks, Digital Risk and Insurance Technology, or simply the “risk track,” prepares students for careers managing digital risk, in InsureTech, and broadly working on the digital transformation in the risk and insurance industry. Students can gain tools to mitigate cyber-attacks, malware, and other novel exposures, and dive into the ever-changing technological landscape of insurance, which is a business area ripe with innovation.

Indeed, innovation is a large part of what draws students to the risk track. One of the three components that make up the track is the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) course. CDL is a global organization that evaluates and mentors the most promising seed-stage, massively scalable science- and technology-based companies. UW-Madison is home to the only stream in the world that focuses on risk and insurance technology—CDL Risk—and students in the risk track can experience and work with leading global risk innovators.

The CDL experience is complemented by courses that discuss the digital landscape of insurance and a course that focuses on risk analytics. Student Amy Shi, currently serving as a Data Management intern with Carrier, reflected about how her view of risk has grown through this course: “In the risk analytics class, I discovered how to use machine learning to predict and control risks to a certain level, which is exciting. Another exciting thing I learned is that risk can bring profit when it is managed.”

The other MSBA content is also highly relevant so that students coming out of the risk track are well-versed in analytics tools and methods broadly, yet they are able to experience how these tools and methods are applied in risk and insurance. Student Freeman Zhang explained, “I was hungry for this education and now I feel full. In one year, we have learned coding, machine learning, project management, statistics, and more. In one of the courses, we learned a new tool every week, and that course is updated every year so that students learn emerging technologies. Relating these tools to risk is compelling.” Simply put, that is the purpose of the track.

Overall, UW-Madison routinely boasts a top-ranked Risk and Insurance Department. Actuary John Han chose to attend the program in large part because of the #1 ranking when combined with personal testimonials. “The UW really stands out. I talked with previous students when making my choice. Former students, current students, and faculty have all been involved to make me successful. This is the place to be! I love it here. We really are number one!” Han shared. His placement after graduation was as an International Wealth Actuarial Associate at Aon.

One aspect of the program Han has enjoyed was the variety of backgrounds his classmates offer. Because students are not required to have a specific undergraduate degree or experience in risk and insurance, they appreciate learning from one another’s varied backgrounds. Diverse skill sets are particularly helpful in the experiential learning components of the program, in which students work with corporate partners on a real-world analytics project. As such, industry need drives the course content, allowing students to immerse themselves in cutting-edge applications and continue benefitting from the program’s trend of 100% placement in this growing field.

If you are considering joining this community of sought-after business analytics professionals at the Wisconsin MSBA, please visit the website and use the Connect link on the navigation bar.

Linda Barrett is a Student Affairs Manager with the Department of Risk and Insurance.