New online MBA Analytics Concentration Available this Spring! | News from CoB | SIU

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New online MBA Analytics Concentration Available this Spring!

January 22, 2018, Chicago Tribune

${image-alt} Pictured (L-R): Paris Forest (The Boeing Company), Andy Greenberg (Edward Jones), Niki Allen (The Boeing Company), Ian Stewart (Presence Health), Jim Boudreault (CME Group), Terry Clark (SIU), Dan Organ (Caterpillar), Jim Nelson (SIU).

We’ve all heard of the growing collective called “Big Data” and the important role analytics continues to play in making sense of all that raw information.

Starting in the spring of 2018, Southern Illinois University (SIU) will offer an online MBA program that focuses on training a new age of professional to identify, sort and understand what’s important within a seemingly-infinite stream of information.

According to Jim Nelson, SIU associate professor and director of the Pontikes Center for Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, adding the new analytics concentration is an essential part of offering a complete MBA education that reflects today’s business needs. “Big data isn't just data that’s big. It's data that’s HUGE. Companies have petabytes of data, that’s a million gigabytes, that must be sifted through with more data flooding in every day,” he says.

According to Nelson, who has more than 25 years in education and 13 years with SIU, these vast amounts of data come in all forms, from simple sales transactions to social media, memos, emails, videos, photographs and more. Somewhere in all that data is the answer to very complex business problems that managers and executives face. The challenge is keeping up with the data and interpreting what it means.

Nelson says the capacity to keep up is there.

“Right now, we have virtually unlimited data storage and massive amounts of computing power to dig through it,” Nelson says. “Computer power doubles about every 18 months. Roughly, we have about 100 times the computer capability for the same cost as we did in 2007. That means we can store 100 times more data and process it 100 times faster than we did 10 years ago. If a company doesn't have enough computer power in-house it can go to the cloud.”

A big part of the focus for the SIU program is to develop an understanding of all the tools available, including analytics techniques and artificial intelligence, which has boosted productivity and increased the quality and complexity of analytical models far beyond what has been seen before.

“What’s falling behind is the human ability to come up with the right questions and to understand the answers that analytics is providing,” says Nelson, who has his PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder, as well as experience teaching at the University of Kansas, University of Utah and Ohio State University. “That’s where SIU’s analytics program comes in. We’re addressing the human side of analytics.”

Four courses

The Online MBA Analytics Concentration, which offers real-world cases and guest lectures from Pontikes Center industry board members, is made up of four courses:

• Data Science for Managers — an introduction to data, analytics, AI and data visualization.

• Analytics and AI for managers — an in-depth understanding of analytics and model building.

• Analytics and Data Visualization for Managers: the best models are no good unless you can explain what they mean.

• A final capstone analytics course puts everything into practice with real-world problems.

Today’s management and executives need to make strategic decisions based on data. Marketing needs to reach customers most likely to respond to their efforts, Finance needs to find where to invest, and Accounting needs to analyze everything that goes into all of their statements. Anywhere that a decision needs to be made, analytics will be critical to success.

The corporate advisory board for the SIU program includes Edward Jones, The Boeing Company, Caterpillar, Nike and Ascension Health.

For more information, visit