Technology Focus Makes UNT Analytics Graduates Work-Ready

by   |   September 4, 2015 1:30 pm   |   0 Comments

University of North Texas' Business Leadership Building

University of North Texas’ Business Leadership Building

Like many analytics programs, the current program at the University of North Texas Denton campus started out as something else.

“It started as an MS in Information Technology and Decision Sciences in 2011,” said Dr. Mary Jones, who chairs the Information Technology and Decision Science department in the school’s Department of Business.

The idea was to create a master’s degree that focused on business analytics to meet the needs of area companies. When the program began, the school offered three courses specifically focused in that area: data mining, predictive analytics, and a survey of enterprise applications in business intelligence, Jones said. They have since added a course in data analytics and another in visualization analytics.

“We originally had two separate MS degrees: one in Information Technology and one in Decision Sciences,” she said.  “But with both computer and analytics components of business analytics, it made sense to create one degree that draws on the strengths from both.”

This meant that students could pursue different tracks in the same program: business analytics or the more traditional IT or statistics program.

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“We developed the two additional business analytics courses so we could refocus the program to build both a breadth and depth of business analytics skills and knowledge,” Jones said. “At that point, we renamed it to an MS in Business Analytics and revised the required courses.”

Nick Evangelopoulos, an Associate Professor of Decision Sciences, said the Business Analytics program builds on a background in the traditional business functional areas like accounting, finance, management, and marketing, and focuses on a combination of analytics and information technology designed to meet the needs of today’s businesses.

“Our students develop skills in statistics, data analysis, Six Sigma, predictive modeling, and mathematical modeling, coupled with skills in data management and management of IT resources,” he said.

Jones said an important strength of the U of NT program is that faculty members are actually doing research in business analytics and modeling, “building on and creating knowledge in the space. This integration of IT and analytics modeling makes us unique, I think,” she said.

The program’s redesign was guided by input from the business school’s advisory board, which includes representatives from approximately 30 companies, including insurance, financial services, retail, energy, consulting, and tech industries.

“The board meets twice each academic year to provide feedback to us about curriculum, student development, and other relevant department matters,” Jones said. “The board has a subcommittee whose focus is specifically on our curriculum. In addition, we have an internship program and we work closely with area companies to secure employment opportunities for our graduates.”

The school is admitting its first class this fall (and expecting 40-50 students). All classes are offered on campus, both part-time and full-time. Students are admitted through the business school, with background courses in finance and marketing.

“We teach tools from a variety of technology vendors, including SAS, IBM SPSS, Microsoft, and Tableau,” Jones said. “In addition, our faculty regularly attends vendor-hosted analytics training events, workshops, and conferences.

“We are currently working with IBM to host an IBM Analytics workshop on our campus this fall,” she added. “Our faculty have also participated in industry conferences as invited speakers, including the vendor-organized M2009 data mining workshop and the Analytics 2013 and Analytics 2014 workshops.”

“Two brand new courses on big data analytics and visualization, both at the master’s level, come loaded with hot new technologies that have quickly become industry standards,” said Evangelopoulos. “So our academic course offerings are combined with opportunities for industry experience through our internship program to deliver graduates who are work ready.”

Jones pointed out that demand for business analytics skills is growing. “Undergraduates who are wondering what to do should look into this,” she said. “This is a very, very high-demand field.”

Holly Millay, an implementation consultant for a software technology company, is a student in the program and expects to graduate in December. She said she has been able to apply what she has learned in the program directly to her job.

“The course material was always relevant and the instructors incorporated real-world examples and quality guest speakers into their classes,” she said. “I especially liked that I was able to use and become familiar with a variety of tools,” including SAS Enterprise Miner, MS Access, Oracle, Tableau, Qlik, SPSS Statistics, and Cloudera.

“With the experience and knowledge I’ve gained, I feel I am well positioned for a future in Business Analytics.”

Program Details

Prerequisites: Admission into the business school. The program consists of 36 hours (beyond any background courses students might need if they enter without having had basic business courses such as accounting or finance.)

Foundation Courses (15 Hours) 

  • BCIS 5120 (3 hrs.) Information Systems Development; or
  • DSCI 5180 (3 hrs.) Introduction to the Business Decision Process
  • BCIS 5130 (3 hrs.) Fundamentals of Presentation Design
  • DSCI 5240 (3 hrs.) Data Mining
  • DSCI 5330 (3 hrs.) Enterprise Applications of Business Intelligence
  • BCIS 5700 (3 hrs.) Strategic Use of Information Technology*; or
  • BUSI 5190 (3 hrs.) Administrative Strategy*

*Either course must be taken in final semester or final 12 hours.

Elective Courses (21 Hours)

Students will select at least five elective courses from the ITDS Department to complete at least 30 hours of the minimum 36 hour requirement for the degree. Six hours may be taken outside of the ITDS Department, as long as they are related to the program of study and approved by the ITDS Department.


Full tuition and fees for in-state students are approximately $18,000.

Tuition and fees for a non-Texas resident are approximately $32,000.

Susan Madrak is a Philadelphia-based writer.

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