When we were designing the program in 2016, there was a report published by the Northern Virginia Technology Council that highlighted a massive jobs gap in the Washington, DC, region, which was branding itself as the nation’s data capital. There was a lot of demand for positions that involved analytics and not nearly enough qualified candidates for those roles. We looked at that report and felt like it was something of a call to action for the University of Virginia to help close that gap.
The first thing to know is that the MSBA curriculum was designed expressly for the MSBA program, both faculties – McIntire and Darden – working together. In fact, many classes are team-taught from faculty from both schools.
When designing the program, the first thing we did was consult with our corporate partners. We asked them very simple questions. What kinds of skills do your employees need? What types of tools and techniques do they need to accomplish their job? And what topics should we be teaching in a program like this? Our corporate partners encouraged us to focus on the intersection of business and analytics, and as result, we built this program to be squarely at the at the nexus of those two important topics. We don’t just teach them analytical tools and techniques. We also emphasize business acumen side, so they know what to do with these insights once they get them, and how to communicate these insights to various stakeholders across an organization.
Data storytelling is an important skill, and being able to create a narrative that resonates with managers is incredibly important. You can have the most sophisticated modeling, but if you can’t communicate its importance or why the data matters, you aren’t going to get very far.
I really think it comes down to people. We’re fortunate that at McIntire and Darden we have professors who are experts in these topics, but who are also highly connected in the marketplace with organizations that leverage analytics to accomplish their goals. They work with these companies in their own scholarly research, which helps them keep a pulse on what’s happening at the forefront of analytics.
Within the program faculty, we also have regular conversations about the leading tends and the new techniques that are emerging. We know that we can’t teach every tool and technique in one program, but we try our very best to give students a broad look at the leading tools and techniques that companies are using and find the most valuable. As noted above, we want to help close that jobs gap and ensure we are preparing our graduates for the jobs of today. However, equally important is helping our students accomplish their goals, not our goals, but their goals, both personally and professionally. And we think the MSBA program definitely does that.
Number one, you have a dedicated faculty that’s going to care deeply about you and your classmates.
The second point is the networking effect that happens over the course of the 12 months of the program. And I can’t emphasize this enough. The students in this program spend a lot of time together, both in the classroom and out of the classroom, and they become like a family. They get to know not only their not only their classmates, but they get to know their classmates, families, and friends. There is a real community feel to the MSBA cohort.
The third factor where where we started off – we built this program based upon market data, and we change with the trends, not only year to year, but month to month, week to week, and day to day. We’re always getting new information. At the time of this interview, we’re in Module One, and we think we know what Module Four might look like for these students. But if we get information about some new development in analytics that bears upon the content in that module, we will make a change. If we think that it’s important to make a change, either with a tool or technique or a project setting, we will do so if we think it’s the best thing for our students. Students can come to the program knowing that there’s a dedication to excellence in analytics every day of the year, and so we take that very seriously.
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