Business Analytics Department

Featured Alumni: Reed Hayes

Those of you who frequent websites, social media or have received other forms of communication from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, may have noticed a shift to include the Power T in all of our word marks. This was done as an effort to convey a greater cohesion among all campus units not just athletics. We gain strength and power when everyone works together.

A perfect example of the power of working together as a team can be seen in a recent relationship with Coca-Cola Refreshments and the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics. This relationship was started by Rob Carrico, in the development office, and Reed Hayes, a manager of strategic initiatives for Coca-Cola Refreshment.

Reed received his bachelor’s degree in supply chain management in 2010 from the Haslam College of Business. His first job after college was for Volkswagen Group of America as a Demand Planning Analyst. In 2011, Reed and his wife, Katherine Farrar, moved to Chattanooga, and he began his work with Coca-Cola Refreshments in January 2012 as an inventory planning manager. In his current role as a manager of strategic initiatives for the COLD market North American portfolio he was tasked with implementing a strategic project that increases customer prospecting and reduces customer churn by leveraging predictive analytics.

In the summer of 2014 Reed connected with Rob Carrico at an alumni event, and expressed a need for help in the area of business analytics. Carrico sought out our department, and through this connection several new opportunities have evolved benefitting both Reed’s work at Coca-Cola and the students and faculty in the Department of Business Analytics.

The MSBA students worked with Coca-Cola on one of their capstone projects, and Michel Ballings has been given access to large amounts of data to provide research on Cocoa-Cola’s customer analytics. These projects lead to another research opportunity for one of the marketing department’s faculty, and all signs point to a long-range partnership between Coca-Cola and the analytics department.

This fall Reed will leave Coca-Cola to pursue an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. After graduating from MIT, Reeds goals are to improve the quality of care for dementia patients and to help spread fiber optic internet cable to ensure America’s competitiveness in the digital age. As you can see, regardless of what you studied while on campus, you are a part of the Tennessee community and you add value to our name. We are proud to have Reed representing Tennessee and can’t wait to see what his future holds. The business analytics and statistics department is grateful to Reed for embodying what it means to be a Vol for life. Thank you Reed for all your support.

Featured Student: Jessica Tyler

Jessica Tyler is a second semester student in the MSBA program at The University of Tennessee.

Jessica Tyler is a second semester student in the MSBA program at The University of Tennessee.

Name: Jessica Tyler

Undergraduate University: Columbia University

Graduation Year (Undergraduate): 2013

Graduate Degree: Business Analytics

Graduation Year (Graduate): 2015

Internship Company: Catalist

Internship Position: Data Science Fellow

Two years ago, I came out of university with expertise in two incredibly different fields. One of these fields was Slavic Studies, and the other was Economics, a field that, while quantitative in nature, had by and large only been introduced to me in theoretical terms. When the time came to decide which career path I should pursue, I examined the current job market with its demand for data-savvy individuals, and recalled my experience in an introductory econometrics class (one of my favorite undergraduate courses). I realized that I wanted to pursue a career that involved analyzing data to allow companies to make sound business decisions; the best way to do this, given my background, was to apply to graduate programs in analytics. During the application process, one school—spoiler alert, the University of Tennessee— immediately stood out from the rest. UT’s Business Analytics master’s degree distinguished itself from the pack, not just because of the balance between quantitative skill-building and soft skills training, or because of the fact that we are given exposure to multiple analytics tools (R, SAS, SQL, Tableau, Excel, etc.) What truly made me convinced me that I belonged at UT were the conversations I had with the department personnel, faculty and students. It was only at the University of Tennessee that I felt the professors and staff really took an interest in my interests. At UT, I was treated as an individual, whose strengths are not just enumerated by a GRE score or a single application response. No other program particularly cared, for instance, about my work on two political campaigns following my graduation from college, or my experience as a former competitive figure skater; the MSBA program at the University of Tennessee did. To this day, I feel completely assured that the business analytics program at the University of Tennessee is not just able to impart the knowledge I need to succeed in the field of business analytics, but also to prepare me for a rewarding and intellectually satisfying career. Our program is not just superb in terms of its faculty and staff, but also in terms of my fellow students. I am continually in awe of the abilities of my peers, who come from a variety of educational backgrounds. It is probably because of this that they all bring important knowledge to the table every single day in our courses. The environment is certainly competitive, but above all, we find it important to help each other succeed. Having completed countless team projects, the quality of teamwork I have witnessed since starting the program is unparalleled. My experience with the MSBA program at UT, in terms of its faculty, staff and students, is absolutely a testament to its excellence. Anyone considering a career in business analytics should definitely apply.


Dr. Mary Leitnaker – Business Analytics Faculty Profile

Mary Leitnaker - Business Analytics and Statistics ProfessorDr. Mary Leitnaker arrived at the University of Tennessee in 1984 and was one of the first female professors in the college to reach full professorship.  In addition to her research and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Leitnaker has worked on many projects that have helped shape the Haslam College of Business as we know it today.

One of Leitnaker’s first projects was the development of a “Practical Strategies for Process Improvement” course, which taught process improvement and was a precursor for Black Belt training. It was also one of the first courses for what is now part of executive education training offered by Graduate and Executive Education in the Haslam College of Business.

After this project, she started the Institute for Statistical Engineering, which delivered large scale, on-site training programs to companies, including Pepsi International and Aera Energy.

In 2009, Mary took on one of her most daunting projects as the founding director of our Master’s in Business Analytics (MSBA) program.  With this change, our department stopped offering a traditional master’s degree in statistics and management science, and put our PhD on hold in order to put all of our “eggs in one basket.”  During Mary’s time as director, we saw the MSBA program grow substantially and receive a Top 20 ranking from “Information Week.”

Now that Mary has handed the role of director to Dr. Missie Bowers, she has begun to work more closely with Consolidated Nuclear Security at the Y-12 National Security Complex.  She has taken on a partial appointment with Y-12 with the goal of fostering a strong relationship between Y-12 and the Haslam College of Business— specifically in the areas of business analytics and supply chain.  The partnership has already generated several business analytics graduate assistantships, and she looks forward to more opportunities once the PhD program in Analytics is officially launched.

The Department of Business Analytics and Statistics and the Haslam College of Business are very proud of all the work Mary has done for the College and for the future female professors who wish to follow in her footsteps.




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.

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