How do you keep pace with a rapidly changing field like business analytics?
If you’re an educator, you innovate. You listen. And you definitely don’t rest on your laurels.
Cody Baldwin, director of the Master of Science-Business: Analytics (MSBA) program at the Wisconsin School of Business, estimates that he talks to 100 companies a year about WSB students and the MSBA program. In these conversations, Baldwin says some common themes emerge about what employers are looking for. “We see how we can build those elements into the program to make our students more competitive,” he says. “We’re getting feedback that ‘this is excellent. We need people like this.’ That tells me that we’re on the right track.”
Launched in 2019 as part of WSB’s investment in creating a market-responsive, flexible graduate portfolio, the program’s enrollment grew 100% last year and is on track for further expansion. Not only was the response overwhelming—Baldwin says they received nearly 700 applications for only 120 available spots—but this year’s final cohort was 47% male, 53% female students, not always the norm for tech programs.
Here are five things to know about Wisconsin business analytics:
The program holds a 100% placement rate. The one-year MSBA program placed 100% of its graduates last year, Baldwin says, and is on pace to replicate that performance again this year. May 2022 MSBA graduates landed at top companies such as Amazon, JPMorgan Chase & Co., American Family Insurance, Generac, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Target, and Goldman Sachs, to name just a few. A sampling of the types of jobs MSBA graduates secured include analyst, data engineer, inventory analyst, business intelligence analyst, senior economic consultant, and data scientist.
Its strong consulting practicum is a highlight of the MSBA experience. Baldwin credits Mary Kathryn Malone (MBA ’01), consulting practicum director, with students’ rave reviews about the program’s spring semester consulting practicum experience, and notes that there are currently more companies interested in working with students than the program is able to fill.
MSBA students work in small teams on real-world business problems across a wide variety of industries throughout the U.S. and globally. The practicum pulls together all aspects of the MSBA program plus consulting best practices. The projects “give students a taste of what the ‘real world’ will look like when they start work,” Malone says. The projects use actual company data and allow students an opportunity to apply technical skills they learn in the program—everything from cloud computing, programming, machine learning, and data visualization.
Two digital elective tracks have been added to the curriculum. WSB’s Marketing MBA was ranked third in the nation this year by the Princeton Review. Launched this spring, the Digital Marketing track equips students for using their analytics expertise in the consumer-focused digital marketing world, with courses such as Digital Marketing Analytics, Marketing in the Digital Age, and Marketing Analytics. Marketing analytics is a booming market, so this presents an exciting opportunity for Wisconsin MSBA students.
For more than a decade, WSB’s Risk and Insurance program has been ranked in the top three of undergraduate insurance programs by U.S. News and World Report, as well as being named one of the original Centers of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries. Come fall, MSBA students will have the option to leverage this WSB strength by enrolling in a new elective track, Digital Risk and Insurance Technology, that prepares them for managing digital risk. The 9-credit curriculum includes two new courses taught by WSB risk and insurance faculty and one course that allows students to participate in the Creative Destruction Lab-Wisconsin program, which supports startup ventures in risk, health, and insurance technology.
“We are excited about this newly developed educational opportunity that we at the Wisconsin School of Business can uniquely bring to students interested in risk management, data analytics and technology, and entrepreneurism and intrapreneurism,” says Dani Bauer, MSBA’s faculty director and the Hickman-Larson Chair in Actuarial Science.
The program’s use of cloud technology is a model for other schools. “Cutting-edge technology” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but in this case, it applies. “We’re one of the only programs in the country that has cloud computing as a core feature of our program,” says Baldwin. Cloud platforms like Amazon, Google, and Snowflake are licensed to students, and a new course, “Cloud Technology for Business Analytics,” helps them develop and apply valuable skills in building cloud data pipelines.
After presenting at a recent conference about WSB’s cloud technology integration, Baldwin was swarmed. “I had a lot of other universities coming up to me, wanting to know what we were doing. It also won the award for best poster at the conference.”
It may be the only place you’ll ever hear “ice fishing” and “business analytics” in the same sentence. No basketball games or escape rooms for this group. When polled about what activities might be fun to do together, ice fishing came in at the top of the list. So, Baldwin and Bauer took the entire cohort ice fishing off of Lake Monona.
That was fine with Baldwin, who believes in giving MSBA students a total Wisconsin experience both in and outside of the classroom. “That’s why I like leaning into things like the Wisconsin Idea, leaning into Wisconsin companies, and leaning into Wisconsin activities,” he says. “Because it makes our program unique in that way, too.”
“Halfway through the [consulting practicum] project, I realized I was still thinking like a student. As a student we are told what to do next. We are task driven. … But what are the purposes of doing these tasks, and what’s next? Real business questions don’t end with tasks… you need to think about what task needs to be done to achieve the goal yourself. How? By putting yourself in your client’s shoes.”