University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Shaping tomorrow’s information management leaders

Neha Bhujbal’s professional journey kicked off in her home city of Mumbai, India, where she served as a business analyst in the medical crowdfunding sector. Her role revolved around uncovering patterns and trends in donor behaviour to boost engagement, monitor performance, evaluate risks, gain insights, ensure transparency, and respond to evolving trends. “These tasks ignited my enthusiasm for employing data strategically to drive positive societal change,” she says.

It’s this very calling that led her to the School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Its MS in Information Management (MSIM) was too good an opportunity to pass up. Eager to deep dive into the disciplines of data science and business intelligence, Bhujbal knew the MSIM’s customisable nature would bring her professional dreams to life.

Flexibility is an iSchool hallmark, which allows graduate students to pursue interdisciplinary courses and experiential learning opportunities that advance their interests while broadening their intellectual horizons. The MSIM does just that, emphasising the intersection of people, information, and technology. In the process, learners develop advanced competencies in information management and analysis—both of which can be used across various sectors and employment settings.

On the road to achieving professional versatility, Bhujbal found herself particularly drawn to courses in Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence (DWBI) and Data Visualisation. “From creating central repositories to dynamic dashboards, and even integrating Python libraries for enhanced data storytelling, these courses have equipped me with cutting-edge tools through an engaging learning experience,” she enthuses.

Keeping classrooms exciting are renowned educators Michael Wonderlich, adjunct lecturer and business intelligence and analytics architect. Bhujbal and countless other students consider Wonderlich a favourite for his ability to instil theoretical knowledge while showcasing how such ideas are implemented in the industry. One of the ways he does this is by regularly inviting industry leaders to share real-world insights with the class. Of course, iSchool itself is filled with many in-house educators who double as industry-leading professionals.

“iSchool’s interdisciplinary faculty and their teaching approaches have undoubtedly enriched my learning, offering diverse perspectives to solve information problems,” affirms Bhujbal, who owes her placement success to Professor Wonderlich. During her tenure as a student consultant at Illinois Business Consulting, his guidance was continuously helpful.

Bhujbal’s placement entailed performing data analysis, constructing impactful data visualisations and dashboards, and presenting practical recommendations to a government client on a diversity, equity, and inclusion project.

“I actively sought Professor Wonderlich’s guidance to refine my dashboard development skills,” says Bhujbal. “His mentorship played a pivotal role in making interactive visualisations easily comprehensible to audiences and employing best practices for addressing social issues effectively.”

Neha Bhujbal believes the MSIM’s flexibility helped her focus on key areas aligned with her career goals. Source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Indeed, the opportunity reaffirmed her belief that data analytics can tackle vital societal challenges—something she further explored as an intern at Rivian, an organisation she respects for its commitment to data-driven decision-making and sustainability.

“Every idea I’ve proposed to solve a data challenge at Rivian stemmed from the knowledge I gained through my iSchool courses in data visualisation, database admin and scaling, DWIB, and information modelling,” she says. “The MSIM’s flexibility enabled me to focus on these key areas.”

The programme’s format ensures that students like Bhujbal, with specific aspirations in mind, only have to complete 12 out of 40 graduate credit hours in foundational coursework. How students choose to leverage the remaining 28 credit hours is entirely up to them—they can even transfer up to 12 of the remaining hours to other Illinois departments for a more multidisciplinary experience. Professional pathways are available as well.

Practicums are an option for learners who are eager to put knowledge into practice in a professional environment—as are internships and opportunities to conduct original research through a thesis. Independent Study is a better path for advanced learners who wish to perform a rigorous investigation of a highly specific topic not otherwise offered in the curriculum.

Overwhelmed by options? Take comfort in knowing that all routes lead to outstanding outcomes. Among those who graduated during the 2020-2021 academic year, in the midst of a roaring pandemic, 90% secured first-destination employment. Today, they can be found in Deloitte, EY, Gartner, PWC, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, Venmo, Visa, Amazon, Boeing, Google, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Tencent, Verizon Media, Tesla Motors, and numerous other esteemed organisations.

To follow in their footsteps, click here to apply now.

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