Data literacy is a competency known for its ability to drive businesses forward, but Angela Alburei saw it as a tool that could be used to save lives. Growing up, she had always looked forward to her mother’s return home from work — she was an Intensive Care Unit nurse who loved sharing the heroic elements of her day-to-day tasks with her wide-eyed daughter. “I knew I wanted to do something like her,” shares Alburei, which is why she decided to pair her passion for analytics with her love for healthcare.
One degree programme helped her merge her interests “into one beautiful thing” — the Masters in Business Analytics (MSBA). Delivered by the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this dynamic programme was designed to help students develop the critical skills high-demand jobs now require: finance, information systems, accountancy, and data science skills including gathering, managing, analysing, and communicating data. It’s a combination that ensures graduates are able to leverage business analytics methods and tools to solve complex business problems in a range of sectors.
Alburei is doing just that. Today, she is an analyst at Impact Advisors in Chicago, helping clients improve their healthcare communities through data analysis and research.
“The future is limitless for those with a deep understanding of analytics,” says Jeffrey Loewenstein, Associate Dean of Graduate Education and Professor of Business Administration. “We teach you how to translate data into action to solve business challenges and identify innovative opportunities.”
All outcomes are achievable thanks to the programme’s flexible nature. Its robust curriculum gives students the chance to tailor their learning journey through one of three pathways: Accounting Analytics, Business Analytics or Financial Analytics. Students could even opt to pursue an optional concentration focused on the principles and practices of finance, or further customise their programme with various electives.
“I was always interested in the data analytics and finance concentration when I joined the programme,” says Garima Singhal. “Coming from a non-financial background, the flexibility of choosing various financial classes really helped me to get a job in the financial sector.”
Regardless of how an MSBA is tailored, all routes lead to experiential opportunities. With help from the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning, students graduate from Gies with well-developed, business-ready skills. For MSBA students, this means working with real data alongside real clients.
Through the Action Learning programme, students apply classroom learning and deepen their understanding while solving problems with one of the 200 companies Gies works with annually. By joining Illinois Business Consulting, the nation’s largest student-run professionally managed university consultancy, experienced students deliver maximum results to esteemed clients.
Meanwhile, those who join EntreCORPS — a student-based, pro-bono consulting firm — get to help provide startups with innovative, strategic, research-backed business advice under professional guidance. In the process, these student consultants learn the ins and outs of creating high-impact, entrepreneurial solutions for a diverse range of ventures and companies.
Then there’s the MSBA practicum, which sees students providing invaluable analytical services and insights to organisations unsure of how their data can be leveraged to reach their goals. A recent project proved how impactful these opportunities can be.
As part of a year-long practicum, MSBA students partnered with a company that uses data analytics to create human performance technology. Their aim is to assist with command control of firefighters, SWAT, and warfighters with actionable insight into the location, health, and environment of operators during high-intensity, small-unit tactics.
The open-ended challenge exposed students to the power of learning with and from analytics. Throughout the students needed to think creatively while working with heaps of messy data to ultimately save the lives of first responders.
Together, they helped develop a tool which uses artificial intelligence to predict floor plans for multi-unit and single-family homes.
The process entailed creating actionable insights from 11,000 floor plans gathered through open sources from India, the UK and the US. Then, the team focused on training, testing, and integrating the machine learning model into the portal.