Business Analytics Program Launches Careers in Areas of Passion
In 2015, Valpo’s College of Business introduced a major and minor in business analytics in response to growing marketplace need. “It is vitally important for every College of Business student to have analytics skills as they won’t be able to escape data in their careers. The employer expectation is there, so analytical knowledge will only serve to increase one’s marketability,” says Sanjeev Jha, Ph.D. associate professor of information and decision sciences.
Businesses across all industries are increasingly relying on analytical expertise and data-driven decision making to remain competitive, enabling graduates to pursue careers in an area they love, including consulting, supply chain, finance, marketing, retail, and health care.
“The wide applicability of business analytics makes it a nice complement to any major,” Professor Jha says.
Incorporating a vital element of a Valpo education, the business analytics major places strong emphasis on experiential learning. Project-based learning is embedded throughout the curriculum in addition to a business analytics practicum course in which students gain direct, hands-on experience working with local companies. The practicum course, in particular, enables students to demonstrate the skills they’ve gained in the classroom in real-word situations in close collaboration with faculty mentors.
Additionally Valpo students demonstrate the skills they have learned in the classroom through internships in areas of interest. This summer found Alexia Marbach ’19, business analytics major, interning at Kohl’s headquarters in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Alexia endured a competitive interview process before being accepted into the elite program, which takes nearly all interns from core schools such as University of Wisconsin – Madison and Indiana University. Alexia served as a merchandise analyst at Kohl’s.
Valpo’s first cohort of business analytics students took their practicum course in spring 2018, working with five companies — ArcelorMittal, Family Express, Urschel Laboratories, UFS Corporation, and Litko Game Accessories. Through this mutually beneficial course, groups of two to three students worked directly with these companies on analytics-related projects specific to their businesses. For instance, the students who worked with UFS looked holistically at data the client had compiled in various spreadsheets since the 1980s, analyzed said data using Excel, Tableau, and R, and communicated their findings to the client. One company owner was so pleased with the Valpo students’ work that she recommended Valpo students for an analytics project with the Valpo YMCA, where she serves as the director. A group of Valpo students are currently working on an analytics project with the YMCA.
“I thought many of the business analytics courses at Valpo were so much fun and extremely practical,” Alexia says. “I’ve seen a great deal of data, worked with a variety of programs, and gained so many skills that nothing Kohl’s could do in the interview process could unnerve me. So when they handed me an excel spreadsheet to analyze on the spot, I was confident in my ability to do so considering everything I had learned in my business analytics courses, specifically spreadsheet modeling.”
Valpo’s College of Business has a consistently high graduate placement rate, with 97.9% of recent graduates employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation, and Alexia is no exception. Through the internship program, Alexia took classes, learned about various roles in the company as well as career progression, and worked on several projects. One of her biggest projects — The Strategy Project — required Alexia to create a strategy for spring 2019, including how to increase digital business. Through use of Enterprise Data Warehouse, Alexia created reports and analyzed data to support her decision making. At the end of the summer, Alexia was offered a full-time position at Kohl’s as a merchandise analyst, a role she accepted and will assume after graduation.
“Business analytics at Valpo is the best,” Alexia says. “I felt far and away ahead of my fellow interns in the program. And, because of Valpo I have so many skills — technological, teamwork, and networking — to begin my career in the retail sector, which is the exact direction I wanted my career to go.”
Students in Valpo’s business analytics program will be equipped to meet the critical marketplace need through a rigorous curriculum that focuses on spreadsheet modeling, database management, statistics for decision making, visual effects, and data mining. They will graduate with the analytical expertise to transform data into invaluable business insights and inform decision making.