Can I analyze your data: UM’s new data analytics masters

We live in a web of data. Our food is grown with the help of data gathered by farming machines and weather readers. Doctors are using data to prescribe medicine and treatments that actually work, because results are data-backed. The government uses data to find and prevent fraud. Concert traffic is routed to get people in and out of stadiums quickly using data. Data is transforming almost every sector of life and work.

With all this data around us we need someone to read it. That is where University of Montana’s new masters of business analytics comes into play. The one-to-two-year master’s program will start fall 2016 and already has 14 students enrolled, with more in the advising process.

Data scientist ranks number one on’s list of best jobs in America. Analytics manager ranks number 11.

The School of Business Administration MBA program director, Simona Stan, said employers and SOBA alumni asked the business school to train students in data analytics. In fact, many employers are already offering internships and seeking to hire program graduates. SOBA already offers undergraduate certificates in big data and digital marketing, but the master’s takes these skills further.

The program originally started as a joint effort between the marketing and management information systems departments, but broadened to include input and class offerings from the math, computer science, media arts and journalism departments.

It is a fifth-year master’s for SOBA students, and a two-year masters’ for graduates of all other programs on campus. Non-SOBA students will need an extra year to complete prerequisites.

SOBA is offering summer courses to help students meet these prerequisites. All backgrounds are encouraged to apply, as data isn’t exclusive to any sector and makes students very valuable in the job market, Stan said. This is the first program of its kind offered in Montana.

Students will take quantitative analysis, marketing research and advanced data analytics classes. Students choose five electives from a list of 20, in subjects ranging from digital tech in the arts in the media arts department, to investigations in the journalism school, to management of information systems in the business school.

Marketing senior Bailey Harper didn’t think she would like data. Then she took adjunct professor John Chandler’s telling stories with data and advanced marketing analytics class. She loved it.

Diving into the data, finding patterns and relationships in large data sets, then telling the story behind them really connected with her. She will complete the master’s program next year.

Harper, a Butte native, hopes to work at a Montana ad agency or marketing automation firm. She wants to use statistics and data to tell stories and explain the numbers in a way all people can understand.

“Data is becoming more and more valuable and crucial to understanding your business, and the need to understand data is only going to grow. This program is a great opportunity to attract students to the U of M,” Harper said.

Management information systems senior Lane Colyer sees the master’s as the key to living his desired lifestyle. He hopes to stay in Montana or the Northwest and work as a strategic consultant or data analyst.

Colyer finds it difficult to focus his efforts within a rapidly changing field. The new master’s, which he will complete next year, gives him structure.

Missoula companies like Draught Works Brewery, Nooky Box, and Advanced Technology Group have all expressed interest in program graduates. Missoula Economic Partnership Vice President Jenn Ewan has a long list of other interested companies, including the county and city of Missoula.

Data analytics skills are in high demand no matter the industry. Many companies don’t actually know where they are losing or making money, and data provides those answers. Often companies are surprised by these answers. Many companies are also looking for students who can work on their website and help tell their story to investors and employees, according to Ewan.

“Data gives you a DNA-like picture of your business decisions,” Ewan said. – Montana Kaimin

April 19, 2016 |

Missoula Economic Partnership | 500 N. Higgins Ave. | Suite 300 | Missoula, Montana 59802 | P: 406.541.6461 | F: 406.541.6464