CHICAGO — Terry Clark, dean of the SIU Carbondale College of Business, believes a cutting-edge business education now requires training in an almost-ubiquitous foreign language: the language of big data.
In his conversations with alumni and industry leaders, data analytics has become a constant topic, Clark said.
“All these companies are struggling with what they call the chasm between their highly technical data-scientist people and the business practitioners,” Clark said. “They speak different languages, and these companies need translators, who understand both sides.”
So, over the last three years, Clark and Professor Jim Nelson, director of SIU’s Pontikes Center for Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, have prepared SIU Carbondale to meet that need.
They assembled an advisory board of high-ranking employees at companies like Nike, Caterpillar and Deloitte, to recommend key elements of an analytics curriculum.
They surveyed recent hires at the intersection of business and big data, to see what their programs got right and what they got wrong.
And they believe the university has found a promising niche.
“A number of programs across the country, we found, got into analytics a bit prematurely,” Clark said, rebranding existing courses to get in on the fad. “We’ve gone root and branch. This program is brand new, and college-wide.”
The school has hired three new faculty, in the departments of finance, accounting and marketing, who all have expertise in analytics, Clark said, and it’s in the process of hiring four more.
The university’s first business analytics courses went live about two years ago online: a package of four courses including “Data Science for Managers,” “Artificial Intelligence for Managers,” and “Data Visualization,” that students in the university’s online MBA program can add as a specialization.
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Now, with the addition of new faculty, the first cohort will be admitted to the on-campus Bachelor of Science in Business Analytics program in fall 2020.
Students in the on-campus master’s in business administration program will have analytics opportunities, too. And soon Clark expects to secure the blessing of the Illinois Board of Higher Education to rebrand SIUC's College of Business as the “College of Business and Analytics,” he said.
"It sends a message that we will be relevant to the future," Clark said.
The college celebrated the momentum with a reception in downtown Chicago, on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
“This is a revolution which has just started,” Clark said. “Every discipline imaginable is inundated with big data, and everybody is scrambling to come to terms. And firms can’t hold on to their analytics people. It’s a very hot career path.”
Indeed, market analysis by the International Data Corporation shows business analytics revenues are expected to grow about 12% each year from 2018 to 2022.
“What we’re doing here will serve as a foundation that we can expand throughout the university,” Nelson said, as making data-informed decisions grows more important in a wide range of industries. “I think SIU will start getting a reputation for being the place to go for analytics.”
As new courses and degree options develop, the university will continue dialogue with its advisory board of corporate leaders, Nelson said, to ensure the programs stay relevant to industry needs.
More immediately, Nelson said, “We need to let people know we exist.”