Business Analytics Department


UT Professors Discuss What it Takes to Be a Top Data Analytics Graduate

Top Data Analytics GraduateOn top of having technical capabilities and real-world experience in a new and rapidly changing field, analysts need people skills and the ability to work in teams to succeed in the modern business world. In a recent article published in Informs’ newsletter OR/MS Today, Haslam professors Chuck Noon and Ken Gilbert discuss what it takes produce this quality of analytics graduate.

Although the demand for data analytics professionals is growing daily, businesses have high standards for the type of employees they want to fill these positions. Amy Buckner Chowdhry, CEO & co-founder of the Silicon Valley firm Answerlab, describes the graduates that her company wishes to hire as “unicorns,” i.e., mythical creatures that do not exist.

According to Noon and Gilbert, developing unicorns is not just about curriculum and industry exposure but depends greatly on recruiting the right students. Part of the selection process at the University of Tennessee is an applicant interview to help answer the following question: Would this person get hired for an industry position?

Noon and Gilbert go on to state that a successful business analytics program needs seven elements to matriculate the best students:

  1. Strong corporate relationships for placement, curriculum development and strengthening faculty research and teaching.
  2. A recruitment policy for both STEM and non-STEM majors that provides a path for both groups to a successful career in business analytics.
  3. Applicant screening that keeps the employer in mind.
  4. Hands-on business experiences for students throughout the program.
  5. A broader focus on business skills. Students should understand how analytics fits into the larger company goals.
  6. An emphasis on soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication.
  7. In-depth subject matter expertise across students’ chosen areas of focus.

Informs members can read the full article including details on some of UT’s curriculum strategy, here.

Business Analytics Course Commits to Improving the Community through Web Analytics

In a country so reliant upon and respectful of charitable organizations, it may be a surprise that nonprofit organizations struggle immensely to financially make ends meet.
Julie Ferrara, Lecturer and Business Analytics Forum Director in the University of Tennessee, Department of Business Analytics, has created a class to help nonprofits in the Knoxville, TN community. From a recent story in Data Informed, “In Knoxville, a city of about 183,000 in eastern Tennessee, marketing analytics are proving vital to nonprofits that are trying to communicate their work more effectively. Ferrara has developed a student-run program that uses analytics to support nonprofits in their mission to grow their presence. Google’s AdWords service is central to the concept. Nonprofits can apply to get up to $10,000 worth of AdWords advertising free, while students donate their time and apply analytics and marketing concepts covered in the classroom.”
This course is unique in that students learn concepts while working directly on client projects– something many students don’t get to experience until an internship. Jeremy Tate, a student in the course, was quoted in Nonprofit Technology News: “Running actual campaigns was a very effective method of learning the concepts of Google AdWords with the added benefit of working with nonprofits from the community. Marketing campaigns for nonprofits are often limited by resources, so I think the class was a great way to partner with the community.”
Students aren’t the only ones satisfied with the work coming from Ferrara’s course; the leaders of the nonprofit clients are as well. Students were able to increase ad impressions and click rates for the nonprofit clients. One nonprofit leader, Daniel Watson, executive director of The Restoration House, spoke to Affect Magazine, “I think it’s a great use of a university’s resources to have college students not only learn a real-world skill, but to provide a real-world benefit to the non-profit community at the same time,” he said. “It’s a great win-win, and one I hope more universities end up doing.”


Business Analytics: A New Path for Women Who Like Math


Research has well-established that women are underrepresented in STEM careers, holding fewer than a quarter of positions within these fields despite ample evidence that their aptitude for science and math matches, and in some ways exceeds, the opposite sex. Culture is the culprit discouraging women from STEM industries, and its influence can even impact the career choices of women who do choose to pursue their passions in math and science.


Instead of being presented with the entire spectrum of STEM careers, women are often relegated to engineering by teachers and guidance councilors because of its established reputation.


Melissa Bowers, professor of Business Analytics at UT’s Haslam College of Business, recently discussed the merits of business analytics as a career for women interested in STEM on

Read the full post here.

University of Tennessee Business Analytics Faculty featured in The Economist

Drs. Chuck Noon and Ken Gilbert were featured in a  recent article in The Economist. Image from The Economist.
Drs. Chuck Noon and Ken Gilbert were featured in The Economist. Image from The Economist.

The Economist is publishing a series on “succeeding in the digital age,” which highlights the advancements in technology and data analytics in both the private and public sectors.

UT Business Analytics and Statistics Department Head, Dr. Chuck Noon, and Professor Emeritus Ken Gilbert were both featured in the series.
Their quotes featured in The Economist are in the article excerpt below:
“Kroger ‘has figured out how to build customer loyalty by personalising [its] marketing strategies,’ says Ken Gilbert, professor emeritus of the department of statistics, operations and management at the University of Tennessee and a development team member of the incubator Cherokee Farms Innovation Campus. ‘Customers are impatient and spoiled, so you’ve got to make yourself easy to do business with.’ Measuring the return on investments like these can be tricky. A traditional cost-benefit analysis is inadequate for businesses that are embracing mobile, social and big data, experts say, because the technologies are new and changing rapidly, thus making ROI difficult to forecast. ‘The danger in making a decision in an environment of uncertainty is that you can make bad assumptions,’ says Mr Noon. ‘What we would envision today might be very different from a year or two or three from now, so [the ability to embrace change is] something that has to be built into the DNA of an organisation.’
‘The real question is: Do you stay with [legacy systems] or do you go to something else that has an additional investment and the pay-off will be much greater?’ Dr. Chuck Noon.”
The full article from The Economist can be found here.

Case Interview Workshop led by Business Analytics Alumnus on Oct. 2

University of Tennessee Business Analytics alumnus Colin H. Schneeweiss will be conducting an interviewing workshops on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM, in Haslam Business Building Boardroom 203.

The first workshop in this fall’s interviewing workshop series put on by Career Services and The College of Business Administration, will specifically be looking at the case interview. Schneeweiss will go over a range of preparation techniques and best practices when it comes to case interviews. The topics include: how to interview if given a case study, how to manage and prepare for case interviews, what consulting firms are looking for, and where and when to follow up with these companies. Schneeweiss has been with EY since his graduation from UT in 2012. His experience in Supply Chain and Operations Advisory with EY will give an added benefit to this workshop.

The second workshop in the series will be on Thursday, October 9th, 6:30 – 7:30 PM in Haslam Business Building room 203 and is entitled “Winning Before, During, and After the Interview: What the best students do to win internship/job offers.” This workshop is featuring Donald Asher and will cover a range of topics including: how to be memorable, 5 interview types, selling skills, how to doge salary questions (gracefully), and what employers expect from top student applicants.

Find more information in this pdf: Fall 2014 Interviewing Workshop Series

UTK Business Analytics Masters Students Participate in Senior Capstone

As part of the Masters in Business Analytics (MSBA) curriculum, all second year students participate in a senior capstone. Groups of students, in their last semester, tackle real-world problems with actual clients with the guidance of their capstone course professor and a faculty mentor. This year, Business Analytics Professor and Department Head, Dr. Chuck Noon is leading the students through their projects.

One company that has partnered with UTK’s MSBA program to provide a capstone project for the students is Bush Brothers. Based in Knoxville, Bush sells more beans that any other company in the United States. This year, a team of students consisting of Sam Kavkewitz, Bryan White, Jane Zheng, and Angela Scruggs are working with Amy Grover, a member of the Trade Marketing team for Bush. Mentored by Dr. Russell Zaretzki, the group is performing an analytics study of the price gap between Bush’s variety beans—chili beans, pinto beans and black beans—and the Private Label brand variety beans.

The group toured the Bush Brothers plant in Chestnut Hill, TN, the location of the founding of the company, on August 29th. They witnessed the canning process and the variety mix picking process among other processes in the plant.

Second year masters students visit the Bush Brothers factory in Chesnut Hill, TN as part of their capstone project.

Second year masters students visit the Bush Brothers factory in Chestnut Hill, TN as part of their capstone project.

Additional capstone projects range from providing insights for a loyalty program for an entertainment company to creating an optimization model for global enterprise to maximize utilization of ocean containers within intra-company freight moves while minimizing empty containers’ miles and cost. University of Tennessee Business Analytics masters students gain exposure to a broad range of projects, and the students graduate with the ability to solve a variety of problems, serving as valuable resources to their institutions.

Click here to learn more about the University of Tennessee Business Analytics Program.

University of Tennessee Business Analytics Welcomes Largest Class of Masters Students Yet

The Masters in Business Analytics (MSBA) program at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, welcomed its largest class ever this August. The class of 38 students along with 11 dual-degree (Business Analytics and Master’s in Business Administration) students brings a diverse set of experiences to the university. The 49 students come from all over the United States and the world and have backgrounds ranging from enriching undergraduate careers to several years of professional work experience in a variety of sectors. The growth in the program is not surprising; the field of business analytics is growing quickly. That hasn’t kept the faculty of the UTK Business Analytics program from encouraging growth in analytics.

“Because business analytics is an emerging career field, not many high school counselors know about it, and that needs to change,” said Dr. Melissa Bowers, director of the Master’s in Business Analytics program, associate professor and Beaman professor of business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “This career field is providing another math-oriented option for students who don’t want to teach math or become an engineer. And it’s growing quickly because today’s technology is powerful enough to handle large amounts of data.” Additionally, the program has had success getting its students into top jobs in the workforce, with the classes of 2012 and 2013 having 100 percent job placement within three months of graduating.

The program has had success getting its students into top jobs in the workforce, with the classes of 2012 and 2013 having 100 percent job placement within three months of graduating. The job placement expectation is the same for the incoming class, and the students wasted no time preparing for their future internship and job searches.

Earlier this month the incoming student were introduced to the returning class, set to graduate this December. During the new student orientation, the incoming students heard from several second-year students about their summer internship experiences and plans for their upcoming transition to the professional workforce. The returning students’ advice made up the closing session of a two-day long crash course in navigating internship and career opportunities.

Dr. Melissa Bowers meets a new and returning student.

Dr. Melissa Bowers congratulates the winners of the corn hole tournament at the department picnic.

The first week on campus was not all business. The class got to know each other well at a department picnic, meeting their new professors. The picnic, together with a rather exhilarating high ropes course, gave the students a chance to learn about each other quickly. They soon learned their class was anything but ordinary. The class includes former collegiate athletes, business owners, and activists. There are moms and expecting dads in the program, and a pair of sisters experiencing the program together. The diversity of the class has not kept a strong sense of comradery from developing, and the faculty are excited to see how well the class will perform. As for the students, they’re excited to exceed expectations.

Math Driven Students Turn to Business Analytics as Profession

The University of Tennessee’s Business Analytics program was recently featured in an article from Center for Digital Education. The top Analytics program was featured as a popular, new career path for students who love math. In her article, Tanya Roscorla interviews two of our Master’s in Business Analytics (MSBA) students, Amy McLaughlin and DJ Rose, and our Beaman Professor of Business, Dr. Melissa Bowers.

Once upon a time, being a math teacher or an engineer was the only career option for math-lovers. But as our big data gets even bigger, analysis of such data has become a career in high demand (it is still the best job in the 21st century). Both DJ Rose and Amy McLaughlin found business analytics after beginning entirely different career paths. Amy was looking to be a pharmacist and DJ was in accounting. Dr. Bowers emphasizes the importance of informing high school students on the possibilities of an analytics career, “We continue to welcome companies who wish to make a recruiting partnership with our program and enjoy matching each of our students with the perfect company.”

The article also highlights UT’s MSBA program’s strenuous curriculum. An MSBA student will have a mandatory summer internship doing advanced analytics, a capstone project which solves a real-world analytics problem for a company, and all the other statistics, business and communications classes that are required.

To read the Center for Digital Education’s full article, click here.

Center for Digital Education

UT Business Analytics Partners with Businesses to Enhance Education

US News reports that as our increasingly technology driven economy demands more highly educated workers, business leaders in STEM companies have become increasingly concerned about the lack of quantity and quality of students entering entering the workforce. But some business are investing heavily in higher education, and everyone is benefiting.
At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, executives from several companies, like FedEx, JPMorgan Chase, and Kroger, visit undergraduates, where the students get up close and personal with someone who is using data analytics every day,” said Dr. Frank Guess, a professor in the department. Industry partners, like Pershing, Yoakley & Associates Analytics, also take interns from the program, and some partners even teach part-time at the university.
Read more about the partnerships between STEM businesses and universities here.

Fall 2014 University of Tennessee Business Analytics Forum a Success

The Business Analytics Forum is a small group of organizations, each having business analytics as a central component of its business strategy and operations. Forum participants meet twice each year to help each other develop competitive strategies and to share best practices in the implementation of business analytics.

Day one of the bi-annual Business Analytics Forum at The University of Tennessee began early; for some maybe a little too early. The night before the official beginning of the forum, several business analytics masters students took part in a data visualization competition. In the competition, students groups were challenged to provide insight on given census data and suggest strategy for improved census form collection. The winners of the competition presented their findings at the forum and discussed their methods with Stephen Few.

This forum’s keynote speaker was Stephen Few, one of the world’s renowned experts and thought leaders on business analytics, quantitative techniques, and data analysis. Few founded the consultancy firm Perceptual Edge in 2003. With 25 years of experience as an innovator, consultant, and educator in the fields of business intelligence and information design, he is considered a leading expert in using data visualization so that individuals can make sense of data and properly communicate it. During the morning session he conducted an interactive half-day seminar on how to effectively present and analyze quantitative business data, reminding the attendees that “the value of information depends on how it’s used” and to “use it wisely.”

Stephen Few presents to business leaders and business analytics masters students at UT Business Analytics Forum.

Stephen Few presents to business leaders and business analytics masters students at UT Business Analytics Forum.

The afternoon speaker, Tim Wilson, maintained Stephen Few’s assertion that analytical acumen was more important that any technology when it comes to successful business analytics. The two, however, differed in their feelings on Twitter—Tim Wilson encouraging the attendees to tweet at him. He shared the importance of process in achieving valuable results in business analytics, detailing a process called ADAPT.

Tim Wilson (second from the right) speaks with forum members and second year masters student Hillary Rivera (far left).

Tim Wilson (second from the right) speaks with forum members and second year masters student Hillary Rivera (far left).

The second day of the forum was just as exciting. Dr. Ken Gilbert, the former Business Analytics Department Head, who now focuses on the development of the Cherokee Farms campus, began the day with an update on business analytics in Knoxville and the state of Tennessee. The discussion not only valuable for the business leaders attending the forum, but the students in attendance also gained insight on how the field of business analytics is expanding and how to become leaders in the field. Furthermore, Dr. Gilbert spoke specifically about Cherokee Farms campus and how big data analytics will play a significant role there.

The day continued with Andy Drake from Capital One, who performed several visualization demonstrations in Tableau, a program that the Masters students are learning. The day ended with student presentations about their internship experience from the summer.

More information about the University of Tennessee Business Analytics Forum can be found here.

The winning team of the Data Visualization Competition. From left: Krista Palmer, Elaine Crutchley, Madeleine Beatty

The winning team of the Data Visualization Competition. From left: Krista Palmer, Elaine Crutchley, Madeleine Beatty

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