Business Analytics Department

Alumni Spotlight: Stefan Partin

stefanStefan Partin earned his bachelor of science in business administration from the Haslam College of Business in 2011. For the next few years, he worked first as a business manager for the Tennessee Solar Energy Association and then as an account executive at Alternate Renewable Innovative Economic Solutions for Energy (ARiES), both located in Knoxville.

In 2014, Partin entered the MSBA program at the Haslam College of Business, where he served as a graduate teaching assistant and then as a statistics intern at 3M in Maplewood, Minnesota.

Partin says his experience in the MSBA program has enhanced his ability to perform well in his career. “I learned how to think critically and became a solid problem-solver,” he says. “That’s important, because a lot of the problems I’ve faced are very large and have lots of possible tracks. Learning critical thinking along with statistical and analytical methods builds the skills you need as a data scientist.” He also appreciates the real-world experience of the capstone course and internship opportunity at 3M.

After graduating from the program in December of 2015, Partin went to work for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services as a data scientist, where he provides analytics support for a variety of projects.

UT College of Engineering, Haslam College of Business Open Big Data Analytics Lab

dsc008282The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and IBM have announced a new computational lab and education initiative devoted to analytics that will enable the university to store large amounts of unstructured data in a security-rich environment while providing students and researchers the processing systems necessary to analyze it.

Established with technology donated by IBM, the “Advanced Analytics Lab, IBM Enabled” has been developed as a joint resource for UT’s College of Engineering and the Haslam College of Business.

It will provide enterprise applications and systems processing to analyze big data from corporate partners. Students and researchers in both colleges will benefit from the new computing and analytics lab, which will be located in the university’s Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building.

“With this donation, we will be able to develop research applicable to both colleges that will ultimately help businesses such as IBM that rely on the successful development of students in those fields,” said UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek.

Approximately 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students in the business, electrical engineering and computer science programs will work in the lab, which officially opened Aug. 25 in an event featuring IBM executives.

“This lab will facilitate research at the crossroads of engineering and business and begin an evolution of research and education that positions UT faculty and students to be more influential and relevant in academia and industry,” said Steve Mangum, dean of the Haslam College of Business and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair.

Both colleges will be using the lab for classes including big data and streaming data analytics, database management and design, supply chain analytics, marketing analytics, information technology (IT) audit and audit systems security, and supply chain IT.

“Any opportunity to combine learning with aspects of real-world experience is a plus for students,” said College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis. “IBM is allowing students from both of our colleges to have the opportunity of a lifetime, to take part in something that can elevate them from their peers at other institutions.”

Students in the Advanced Analytics Lab will conduct research in the analytics of large data sets from the financial and health care sectors, including social media data, business-to-business transactions, Medicare claims data and real-time streaming data from the Internet of Things.

Based on an IBM PureApplication® system, the technology solution incorporates servers, storage, software, network devices and virtual machine managers that can be operated through a single console. The solution can recognize patterns even across video and audio files, and simplifies creation and reuse of applications using Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform.

“The workforce of the future needs the skill sets to draw insights from big data that can transform businesses,” said Mike Ray, IBM’s vice president of business architect and transformation. “By working with the University of Tennessee to develop the Advanced Analytics Laboratory, we are working to bridge the skill gap when it comes to analytics and helping prepare the next generation of workers for the business challenges of the future.”

Alumni Spotlight: Miller Moore

miller-moore-16Miller Moore joined the US Navy while he was attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as an undergraduate student. “I got a bachelor’s of science in material science and engineering in 2009,” Moore says. “After graduation, I spent five years on active duty in Washington, D.C., serving as an engineer in the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program.”

In 2014, Moore decided to go back to school. “That’s when I applied to the MSBA program at the Haslam College of Business,” he says. During the program, Moore gleaned a wide variety of skills that have proven helpful in his subsequent career. “The program is designed to build your character as a person, and the faculty works hard to make sure each student is well-rounded, can speak to people effectively, and have the technical skills to be successful in business.”

Moore completed his MSBA in December 2015 and was quickly recruited as a business analyst for Coca-Cola Refreshments, the largest bottler for Coca-Cola in the United States. “I do everything from reporting regular sales volume to building predictive models and forecasting outcomes,” he says. “It’s pretty much the full gamut of analytics responsibilities.” While the company is based in Atlanta, Moore enjoys the flexibility of living in Knoxville and working remotely.

The MSBA program helped to equip Moore for the range of technical tasks he carries out for Coca-Cola Refreshments. “I learned programming for analytics purposes in languages like R and Python, as well as statistics and machine learning,” he says. “Just through experience and the curriculum that everyone goes through, the MSBA [program] prepares students more than enough for the real world.”

In the future, Moore hopes to take on a leadership role in the field of customer analytics. “That would involve analytics driven toward acquiring customers, managing their life cycles and preventing them from leaving,” he says. “That’s the specific analytic vertical that I think I’m most proficient in at this point.”

Business Analytics Student: Bertilla Miao

miaoBertilla Miao chose to pursue an MSBA at the Haslam College of Business because she wanted a full-time program with equal emphasis on technical and soft skills. “I was looking for a blend of analytics and business,” she says. “Here, I feel very balanced in my development.”

After earning a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, Miao worked as a product and reliability engineer for Analog Devices in San Jose, California. Upon entering the MSBA program at Haslam, Miao served as a graduate research assistant during the 2015–2016 academic year. “I performed market share analysis on healthcare data which were only available in mismatching formats from various web sources,” she says. “I also conducted covariance analysis on marketing data to assess bias in survey design.”

From May to July 2016, Miao served as a data science intern at Boeing. “I built a machine learning model from time series parametric data to predict maintenance issues with 99.99% accuracy,” she says. “The goal is to provide proactive money-saving customer support for all Boeing 787 Dreamliner operators.” While interning at Boeing, Miao received the Pride @ Boeing Achievement Award.

Miao appreciates the many skills she has acquired during her time as a student at Haslam. “I enjoy learning statistics and adding more programming languages to my arsenal.  I also have fun learning about business operations in my electives,” she says. “I have worked hard on my networking skills.”

Most of all, Miao likes the camaraderie within the program. “Not only do I feel support from faculty and staff in helping me succeed, I also feel the mutual support amongst my peers. I know the program helps to facilitate this encouraging team environment.”

Faculty Spotlight: William Seaver

seaver123x175William Seaver originally came to the Haslam College of Business in 1988 as a visiting professor from Virginia Tech. Later, he left academia to spend several years working in industry before returning to the University of Tennessee in 1993.

Seaver earned his bachelor’s and master’s of business administration degrees at the University of Texas, Austin, focusing on statistics and quantitative methods, and his PhD in statistics from Texas A&M. “I’ve been in and out of industry throughout my career, which brings a unique reality to my classes,” Seaver says. “I love to teach, and I also teach inside industry as a consultant.”

Currently, Seaver teaches only senior and graduate level courses at Haslam, including a class on time series analysis and a capstone course for undergraduates in business analytics and statistics. Seaver enjoys relaying current issues and real-life problems from industry to students. “Students in my classes get some good creative problems from an industry perspective,” he says. “I look for those types of ideas, because they help students succeed.”

When it comes to research, Seaver specializes in finding patterns in data. “I do that over time and in static databases,” he says. “We call it data mining now, but I’ve been doing that same thing for forty years.” Seaver recently co-authored a paper on bank branch operational performance for Expert Systems with Applications and published an article in the Journal of Applied Statistics on time series analysis applied to employee turnover forecasting. “One of my specialties in patterns is fuzzy analysis, which captures the vagueness of patterns in current data, and a lot of our business analytics do not currently incorporate those kinds of technologies to find those patterns,” he says. “The banking paper we just finished uses that methodology to understand profiles of banks that are not mutually exclusive.”

Seaver enjoys his work too much to retire, at least for now. “I still enjoy teaching and seeing students catch a glimpse of how neat this stuff can be,” he says. “I often get appreciative letters from students, and that makes my day.”

Haslam Business Analytics Student Wins Booz Allen Hamilton Internship Award


Bryan Noreen, a master’s of business analytics student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently received the VIP intern award at Booz Allen Hamilton.

The Haslam College of Business student, one of a pool of 320, interned at the global management and technology company this summer. The award recognizes exemplary performance and leadership as well as embodiment of the company’s core values.

Noreen spent this, his second internship with Booz Allen Hamilton, working with a team on a projected they called Curtis, to analyze crime on rail systems in Europe.

“We used machine learning models to predict and score crime levels around stations in major cities,” Noreen said. “We used a color gradient to code the frequency of occurrences to make the data easily readable and accessible.”

Noreen’s team placed first against 13 intern teams focusing on analytical challenges and presented their findings to a panel of six senior-level executives.

“Bryan was integral to our team’s success this summer,” said his manager and the team’s staff leader, Derek Yeager. “He possesses a versatile skillset that includes top-notch analytical thinking, leadership, communication and technical skills.”

img_3557Noreen’s team developed the data visualization in an open-ended manner so it could be integrated into a mobile application in the future. They worked on the application using the R programming language, which is designed for work in statistics.

“I really enjoy R programming, and my internship gave me the ability to utilize what I have learned while also being pushed into areas with which I was unfamiliar,” Noreen said. “Our application uses a Support Vector Machine model and runs in R Shiny. I have enjoyed digging into those two areas.”

R Shiny, a Web application framework, provides tools to present statistical analysis in a user-friendly manner on websites. At the conclusion of Noreen’s internship, Booz Allen Hamilton offered him a full-time position.

“Having expanded my knowledge of modeling, as well as of R Shiny, I think I’ll be well served in a full-time job,” Noreen said. “As has often been stressed in my Haslam classes, the ability to present analytical information is a very important skill to practice.”

Undergrad Statistics Major Explores Large Data Sets Through Machine Learning

undergrad-ballingsFor Michael Todd Young, a senior statistics major, the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to research presented itself in the form of an analytics project predicting stock prices.

“During my time in the undergraduate statistics program I’ve become fascinated by machine learning,” Young said. “It blends my favorite subjects of computer science and statistics in a playful and profound way.”

Machine learning allows students to readily explore the patterns within data. “With a little luck,” Young said, “We can learn something that would not have been possible otherwise.”

Young hopes to submit an academic paper for publication with his adviser, Michel Ballings, assistant professor of business analytics. It will present data-driven models for predicting the direction in which stock prices will move.

According to Ballings, Young is learning LaTex, a document preparation system, improving his Linux and R programming skills, learning to position an academic paper and persevering despite the challenges of an expansive machine learning research project.

Ballings said he wants to provide Young with an opportunity to engage in scientific practice beyond the classroom setting.

“This work ties together a lot of the material he has learned in his studies,” Ballings said. “Machine learning is an iterative process of trial and error that is very unstructured. He has had to acquire these new skills.”

Young said Ballings’ notion that machine learning represents a novel approach to the scientific method resonates with him.

“In essence, we are constantly racing through the scientific method,” Young said. “It feels like we’re constantly working on the edge of the unknown, and for a curious person like me that’s very exciting. Machine learning allows us create working models in places where we have no underlying theory.”

Business Analytics Student: Ryan Blanchette

Graduation Year (Graduate): December 2016ryan-blanchette

Internships: UnitedHealth Group

Now in his final semester of the Master’s of Science in Business Analytics program at the Haslam College of Business, Ryan Blanchette says he was originally attracted to it for several reasons. “I earned my undergraduate degree here at UT, so I knew how good the MSBA program was,” Blanchette says. “I also found the job placement rate and average starting salary very attractive.”

The most helpful aspects of the master’s program, to Blanchette, have included the emphases on attaining soft skills and business acumen. “I also appreciate the different types of software we’re exposed to,” he says.

During the 2015–2016 academic year, Blanchette served as a graduate teaching assistant for William Seaver, associate professor of statistics at Haslam. From May to August 2016, he interned with UnitedHealth Group in their technology development program. “I analyzed file loading errors through modeling in R and visualization in Tableau, which identified highly problematic clients and loading steps,” Blanchette says. “I also improved the department SharePoint site by redesigning the layout and appearance, creating an organizational chart, and adding plots with R to describe department performance.” Blanchette utilized his SQL software training at UnitedHealth, too, saving time for other analysts by maintaining project and client databases.

Starting in August, Blanchette has worked on a capstone project with Procter & Gamble, applying his analytics skill set. “I have strong interests in predictive modeling, machine learning and forecasting,” he says. He looks forward to pursuing those interests further as a 2016 MSBA graduate.

Faculty Spotlight: Melissa Bowers

bowers123x175Melissa Bowers is an associate professor and Beaman Professor of Business at the Haslam College of Business. She serves as the director of the Master’s in Business Analytics program. “I came to the University of Tennessee 26 years ago because of the people,” Bowers says. “I was really impressed with the depth and breadth of the curriculum and the work that faculty in management science were involved in at the time.”

Through the years, the department continued to impress Bowers with its agility and broadening interests, including analytics. “The data science related skills are becoming more important—students need to understand the concept of big data and its implications on organizations,” she says. “It’s important that they know when a big data solution is needed.”

Bowers has taught courses in optimization, stochastic processes, decision support systems, and supply chain analytics to undergraduate and graduate students. Every year, she teaches the concepts of lean manufacturing, optimization and queuing theory in the Aerospace and Defense MBA program. Her research areas include production planning and scheduling, lean manufacturing, and theory constraints, and her work has appeared in Decision SciencesEuropean Journal of Operational Research, InterfacesComputers and OR, Production and Inventory Management Journal and several other academic and professional journals. She’s also worked with organizations such as Milliken, ALCOA, Phillips Petroleum, Oxford Industries, the United States Air Force, Hanes Brands, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Embraer, Boeing, and Cherry Point Naval Air Base, often through her leadership role within the MSBA program’s capstone program.

She sees the field of business analytics as an ever-changing one—and perceives a need for students to develop a diverse skill set. “It’s becoming even more critical that a business analytics professional not simply be able to crunch the numbers, but actually understand the business problem and be able to communicate the results of their findings in terms that any manager can understand,” she says. “Then, the company can reap the benefits of analytics by turning the analytic insight into actionable results that impact the bottom line. If there is a communication gap and the CEOs, middle level managers, or frontline employees don’t understand the analytic results, they will not be able to implement the associated recommendations successfully.”

Graduate Business Analytics Student Interns at Nielsen


Nathan Parmeswar did not take an internship at Nielsen to gain work experience. A master’s in business analytics student, he came to the program after several years in the working world. Parmeswar took the internship at Nielson to learn data insight skills no other company currently utilizes.

“Nielsen is the company that really sets the industry standards when it comes to measuring consumer behavior,” Parmeswar said. “I will definitely be using the data modeling techniques I have learned thus far after I graduate.”

Parmeswar works in Nielsen’s marketing effectiveness team determining what mix of techniques yield the highest return on investment. He examines the effectiveness of advertising on social media, television, online videos and multiple other mediums using multiple regression models within a software program called Statistical Analysis System (SAS). This data yields insights to optimize the budgets for each marketing technique and for overall strategy.

“I am working with the data modeling team within the marketing effectiveness department to develop a customized marketing mix ROI model that specifically handles e-commerce data from Amazon,” he said.

Despite having worked in a marketing research firm, Parmeswar says he would not have been prepared for the internship without the classes he has taken during his MSBA.

“The program really equipped me with the skills needed to handle large data sets, which is a skill I did not have before joining,” he says. “That is a very important skill set in my current internship. It also helped me polish my programming skills.”

Parmeswar plans to use both the technical and soft skills he honed during his internship in a position after graduation.

“I found that I love presenting and communicating my findings to co-workers and clients,” he says. “I also prefer working with certain software programs over others. That has helped me greatly when it comes to targeting specific full-time roles.”

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