Business Analytics Department

Alumni Spotlight: Robert Woolsey

Robert WoolseyAfter a successful internship at Home Depot, Robert Woolsey (MSBA ’12) landed a job with the home improvement giant after graduation. “I was a senior analyst in inventory solutions for about a year and a half,” Woolsey says. “Essentially, we were working on trying to bring some optimization to the import side of the organization – tweaking our safety stock logic, the way that we prioritized containers, and how we measured and managed forecast accuracy.”

In 2014, Woolsey became a manager in inventory analytics, allowing him freedom to pursue his interests and strengths. “It was very successful, and we got a lot of things done,” he says. “I developed an algorithm for how we should set inventory levels for our ‘job lot’ SKUs – items with really lumpy sales. We also changed the logic behind our stores’ safety stock targets and saw a significant boost to Home Depot’s in-stock percentage.”

Although he was happy in his role at Home Depot, Woolsey couldn’t resist the offer he received in late 2015 to become a senior manager of inventory analytics at HD Supply, one of the largest industrial distributors in North America. “They’re just starting a very transformational reboot of their entire supply chain, especially within their inventory function,” Woolsey says. “We’re completely changing the way the supply chain is managed, and everything is on the table. We’re overhauling the systems, reporting, and logic currently in place to create a best in class supply chain. It’s exciting—similar to working for a startup, but you’re a Fortune 500 company.”

Woolsey says the communication skills he learned during his time in the MSBA program at UT have proven invaluable in his career. “All our project-based work was done as if we were presenting it to a CEO,” he says. “We learned to distill it in a way that laypeople can understand. That distinguishes UT’s MSBA grads from people who are just good with numbers from those people who move up in a company.”

As his career progresses, Woolsey plans to meet every challenge head-on. “I’m trying to keep moving up the ladder and gaining more responsibility,” he says. “The higher you go, the more you can get done. I really like working on challenging problems, and there’s no shortage of them in supply chain.”

MSBA Graduation Numbers


Out of more than 2,000 graduates who crossed the stage at UT’s fall commencement in December, 33 represented the Master’s of Science Business Analytics program. All of this year’s MSBA grads have already been placed in jobs within the analytics field—and the average starting salary is $83,500, including base and signing bonuses.

“This makes our fifth consecutive year of 100 percent placement,” says lecturer Dick Stevens. “And this year, 45 percent of placements are from companies that have never hired our grads before.”

Madeleine Beatty is one of those grads. A single mom, Beatty completed her MSBA despite the heartache of being separated from her five-year-old daughter, Mathilde, for the first year of her program. While staying with her grandmother and aunt in Washington, Mathilde and her mom stayed connected through letters and phone calls. Tennessee Today picked up this family’s inspiring story, and the Knoxville News Sentinel included Beatty in its UT graduation write-up.

After a successful internship with Amazon last summer, Beatty has begun a full-time position at the company’s Seattle base. Other MSBA graduates will fan out across the nation this spring to start their new jobs, from Seattle to Boston, Minneapolis to Austin, and all points in between.

MSBA Students Blast Off to Huntsville


In October, students and staff from the Haslam College of Business traveled to Huntsville, Ala., to visit some of the nation’s top aerospace and defense organizations—NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency, Avion Solutions and Boeing.

“This was an amazing experience,” says Greg Jackson, one of seventeen MSBA students to go on the trip. “Not only did we learn a lot about the business, logistic, and engineering problems of the defense and space industry, but we also had invaluable opportunities to rub elbows with top people at world-class organizations. Networking opportunities like these are why I came to UT.”

College leaders organized the three-day trip to expose interested students to the important missions in the industry and the career opportunities found there.

The trip enabled a two-way opportunity for knowledge sharing. Participants learned from some of the nation’s top aerospace and defense leaders during their visit, including NASA’s safety and mission assurance director for the space launch system (SLS) program, the chief scientist and the contracting director for the Missile Defense Agency, the chief engineer at Avion Solutions and multiple vice presidents at Boeing. Host organizations gained insights on UT business programs and the key business skills taught in some of the college’s programs.

“We wanted to expose interested students to the work of these employers, to their business challenges and to some of the exciting career opportunities they offer,” says Andy White, director of the Aerospace & Defense Business Institute. “We’ve seen how this kind of experiential learning can broaden the perspective of students and inspire their work and ambitions. It’s another example of how UT is partnering with area employers in very powerful ways.”

Trent Thurman, executive director for graduate programs at the Haslam College of Business, notes that trips such as this one are open to all of the college’s graduate programs, allowing students to expand their networks beyond their individual programs. “We targeted companies and organizations that are currently looking for top-notch talent, so the treks allow our students to have invaluable face-to-face interaction with company leaders about real opportunities as well as get a sense for the working environment and the region itself,” Thurman says. “It’s a great way for us to showcase our graduate talent to these organizations and strengthen our relationships with potential employers. And who wouldn’t want to visit NASA and learn about the journey to Mars?”

Student Spotlight: Gunwoo (Tom) Nam

Undergraduate University: North Carolina State UniversityG_Tom_Nam

Graduation Year (Graduate): 2015

Internship Company: Hanesbrands Inc.

Internship Position: Analytics & Optimization


Gunwoo (Tom) Nam chose the University of Tennessee because he wanted a hybrid of business and technical skills—and because he saw the MSBA program offering opportunities for real-life application of those skills through capstone courses and internships.

Nam got that real-world experience when he served as an analytics and optimization summer intern for Hanesbrands Inc. in 2015. “As an intern, I collaborated with Hanesbrands marketing teams and performed cluster analysis, grouping customers into distinct segments,” Nam explains. “Then, I helped to create dynamic promotional campaigns for each segment based on shopping behavior.”

After graduating from the MSBA program, Nam plans to pursue a career in customer analytics. “My time at Hanesbrands solidified this choice,” he says. “Along with the capstone project, the internship was one of the most valuable aspects of the program for me.” During his time at the Haslam College of Business, Nam’s presentation and technical skills grew rapidly. He appreciated the opportunity to learn several types of software for data analysis, including R, SAS, Tableau, JMP, MySQL, and VBA. “Knowing how to use those programs will allow me to be more adaptable to various data-related situations,” he says.

Eventually, Nam hopes to work in the field of sports analytics. “I am eager to explore opportunities that will allow me to work creatively with data analysis,” he says. “I’m convinced that whoever can make sense of the data can become a vital voice in making important business decisions.”

A dedicated student and team player, Nam co-chaired the class gift project—a fundraising program designed to motivate students to give back at graduation—during his time in the MSBA program. The BAS faculty would like to thank Nam for co-chairing this important project.

Faculty Spotlight: Michel Ballings

michel ballingsAfter earning his Ph.D. in Applied Economics from Ghent University in Belgium in 2014, Michel Ballings decided to set his career trajectory on an international course. “I looked for jobs in several countries, focusing on Europe and the U.S.,” he says. “When I started applying, the Department of Business Analytics at UT specifically interested me.”

When UT offered him a position as assistant professor, Ballings packed up and prepared for a cross-cultural relocation. “In August 2014, I moved to Knoxville with my wife and baby son, leaving everything behind overseas,” Ballings remembers. “I’ve been working here for one year and a half, and it’s been great so far.”

Ballings was in the marketing department at Ghent University, and his dissertation topic focused on machine learning applied to marketing problems. “At UT, I teach data mining and customer analytics and my research is very similar.” He has a keen interest in social media analytics. “Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, and everything related to social media analytics is of interest to me,” he says. “I think the department is great for that because it has such a nice mix of faculty from different backgrounds. There’s a practical focus here, and that makes it a very good environment for me.”

His latest publications reflect the focus on social media analytics. For example, Ballings has researched predicting whether Facebook users will close their account or not. “I’m also interested in understanding how one can grow his or her network on Facebook,” says Ballings. “That’s an important goal because companies need to get lots of followers to spread their message. We use machine learning methods to determine that.”

Ballings marvels at the constant changes in the business analytics field. “You might learn or study something this year, but the technology is completely different next year, so there are huge investments involved in keeping up,” he says. “But that rapid evolution also makes it very interesting. There’s lots of energy involved—to align people and collaborate, and to keep up with innovation.”

Student Spotlight: Ben Hicks

Undergraduate University: University of TennesseeBen_Hicks

Graduation Year (Graduate): 2015

Internship Company: Hospital Corporation of America

Internship Position: IT Pathways


Last summer, Ben Hicks spent countless hours analyzing medical data. Hicks served as an IT Pathways Intern at the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), working mainly with a software tool called Splunk. “Splunk is a tool that is used for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine-generated big data,” Hicks explains. “The data was coming from Meditech, an application used by physicians and clinicians at HCA facilities.”

Hicks’s work with Splunk focused on predictive alerting and monitoring and driving optimization efforts of Meditech response times. “The goal was to become proactive in alerting system engineers at a facility when there’s a problem with Meditech,” says Hicks. “The old process has been reactive—the physician would have to call in to the help desk and report the issue.”

Throughout his internship, Hicks put into practice skills he’d acquired in the classroom. “Most of the techniques that I utilized this summer came from what we learned in Dr. Mee’s Statistical Methods class,” Hicks says. “Having learned SQL, R, and JMP helped me bring immediate value to my internship.”

Hicks chose the MSBA program at Haslam after completing his undergraduate education at UT. “I wanted to be a Vol for Life and come back to get my master’s degree here,” he says. “After initial talks with staff and faculty, I knew this program was a great fit for me.”

Developing students’ communication skills is a valuable emphasis in the program, according to Hicks. “Being able to present technical results to a non-technical crowd is definitely was one of the biggest challenges for anyone in an analytical role,” he says. “The program does a great job at stressing the importance of this and gives us opportunities to practice our presentation skills regularly.”

Originally interested in a sports analytics career, Hicks’s focus shifted during his time in the MSBA program. “I’ve been exposed to a variety of industries that came to campus and recruited us,” he says. “Knowing that my work could have a positive impact on a patient’s experience in a hospital has inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare.”

Fall 2015 BAS Forum Focuses on Effectiveness

Representatives from nineteen companies gathered at the Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park in Knoxville on November 9 and 10 for tChuck2he semi-annual Business Analytics Forum. The event attracted more than 120 attendees and the main theme centered around “Combining Analytics and Maturity Model Concepts to Enhance Effectiveness.”

Department head Chuck Noon opened the event, welcoming guests before keynote speaker Aaron Burciaga, Analytics Applications Platform North America Lead and Global Defense Analytics Lead at Accenture, spoke about best practices for completing a maturity model assessment. Other notable speakers on the event’s opening day included Craig Brabec, Chief Analytics Officer at Caterpillar; John Hart and Josh Eldridge from Scripps Networks Interactive; Mark Ewing of Eastman Chemical Company; Essam AlShreafi, Project Manager at St. Onge Company; Jennifer Golek of Capital One; and Eric Johnson of Jewelry Television.

The forum’s second day started with a detailed update from the department. Department head Chuck Noon expounded on the current status of the degree programs, goals for the future, and the department’s desire to partner with companies. Focusing on three key areas—degrees, research, and corporate engagement—Noon stressed the department’s decision to take an integrated approach to teaching and learning. UT’s master’s in business analytics offers capstones, executive education, forums, internships, and curriculum input, all vital elements of an integrative student experience.

The remainder of the forum consisted of presentations and breakout sessions led by industry experts, faculty researchers and forum members. These sessions expanded on the details covered in the keynote and provided opportunities to learn from organizations that are currently tackling these issues.

“Representatives from several of our departments attended the forum and found the conversation about analytics processes and structure relevant and beneficial,” says forum attendee Matt Carr, Vice President Business Analytics at Regal Entertainment Group. “I always look forward to group discussions about analytics progress and to hearing where the industry is heading.”

Eric Johnson, Vice President of Information Services at Jewelry Television, agrees that the forum is a valuable resource. “It’s been a vehicle to help Jewelry Television learn best practices from other forum companies,” Johnson says. “We enjoy the interaction with the students, faculty and staff at these events.”

The Business Analytics Forum is one of many ways corporations can partner with UT’s Business Analytics Program. To read more about the forum, view our PDF here.

Alumni Spotlight: Haley Hubbard


Haley Hubbard (MSBA ‘14) is currently working at Vendor Registry in Knoxville, Tennessee, as the director of business analytics. Hubbard leverages her degree for visualization, light analyses, A/B testing, development of company-wide KPIs and customer segmentation.

“Prior to earning my Master’s of Science in Business Analytics, I earned a bachelor’s from UT in accounting and attended the University of Texas to obtain my Master’s in Professional Accounting,” she says.  After earning these degrees, she worked in forensics services at PwC in New York for three years and in Dallas for two.

“The majority of my work focused on white collar crime investigation, and this is where I discovered my love of disparate data analyses,” Hubbard says. “I recognized that the wave of the future in almost every profession is to have strong analytics skills in addition to your initial focus, and I made the decision to return to school for another degree.”

Hubbard’s most current project involving analytics aims to visualize data to see what is going on the business environment. From there, her company has begun testing different scenarios and measuring the impact.  “We have tested website layout, paths through our system, marketing content and subject lines,” she says. “Our company takes a scientific approach to decision making, opting for testing hypotheses to see which solution produces the desired result.  We have used many sources of data including customer inputted, company generated, financial, email activity, and web traffic data for these analyses.”

Working for a startup company, one of Hubbard’s greatest difficulties is not having much data for analyses. “This is a challenge we continue to fight,” she says.  “However, we have approached our data gathering with a forward thinking mindset considering the types of questions we would like to answer.”

But the challenges are worth the trade-off for Hubbard. “This role with Vendor Registry has given me the opportunity to make strategic business decisions using analytics and see those decisions through from concept to execution,” she says.  “I hope to continue to have these experiences as our company grows and begin using some predictive modeling to answer some of our questions. My hopes for my career are to run an organization or department using a variety of skills but driven by databased decisions.”

Hubbard says the greatest benefits of attending the MSBS program at Haslam were the teamwork demanded of the students and the involvement of the faculty.  “I knew coming into this program that I had many strengths but also many weaknesses that I needed to strengthen,” she says. “What I learned was that all of my classmates had the same issue but with a variety of strengths.  Forcing us to work as teams allowed us to learn from each other in addition to what we learned in the classroom. Also, my classmates and I often found it helpful to work in the department because our faculty was easily accessible and would often come sit at tables with us to review our questions.”

Faculty Spotlight: Haileab Hilafu


Halieab Hilafu has background unique among college professors in the United States. “I was born in a remote village near Keren, Eritrea, and finished my college studies in Eritrea,” he says.

In the fall of 2009, Hilafu came to the United States to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia. During his time at UGA, he worked as a volunteer at the statistical consulting center, interned with Johnson & Johnson and worked on a dissertation to develop dimension reduction and variable selection methods for high-dimensional datasets (also referred to as “wide data”).

Hilafu chose the Business Analytics and Statistics Department at Haslam because it offers opportunities that a traditional statistics department does not. “Haslam’s BAS department has embraced the contemporary challenges and opportunities of big data,” Hilafu says. “The departmant has aligned its resources to educate students to solve practical business problems with the aid of analytics, and the faculty has the right mix of expertise in a multitude of relevant areas to analytics: statistical methodology, statistical learning, supply chain and optimization, and computational methods.”

Now in his second year at Haslam, Hilafu is developing dimension reduction methods, focusing on time series data with special application on predicting out-of-sample stoke price index. In coordination with Drew Schmidt, a current doctoral student, he has submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation regarding a novel dimension reduction method for large data sets.

Hilafu wants to be remembered personally and professionally for being there to lend a helping hand for people in need, and for a significant contribution to the literature of high-dimensional data analysis.



Student Spolight: Miller Moore


Undergraduate University: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Graduation Year (Undergraduate): 2009

Graduation Year (Graduate): 2015

Internship Company: AT&T

Internship Position: Big Data Scientist Intern

Miller Moore has a diverse background in his degree path as well as career. Moore served in the Navy and already holds master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University in nuclear engineering. This summer he interned with AT&T, where he analyzed equipment purchase orders for cost saving opportunities. He used a wide variety of tools including Oracle SQL, Python, R, Pig and Hive.

“Although this summer was challenging,” says Moore, “I believe I exceeded expectations in both the technical and non-technical aspects of his assigned projects.” As a result of the technical abilities demonstrated by his internship, Moore currently serves as one of eight program managers for the capstone experience class.

Moore cites the balance of technical and soft skills as the primary reason he chose the analytics program at Haslam. “This program has a great culture and location,” he says. “Since this is a business program, the curriculum appropriately balances attributes desired for positions that require both technical and non-technical skills.” Moore chose to follow the data scientist career path because it requires creativity, business knowledge, technical and communication skills, and above all, hard work.


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