School: Notre Dame University’s Mendoza College of Business
Length of Program: 12 months
Cost: Tuition and fees in 2019-2020 are estimated at $51,000 to $52,000
Notre Dame’s historic campus figures prominently in preparations for attracting students to the new Master of Science in Business Analytics program at the Mendoza College of Business, for which applications opened August 1 and which will begin in the fall of 2019. That’s because administrators want to distinguish between the new program on the South Bend, Indiana campus and Notre Dame’s already flourishing nonresidential MSBA-Chicago program for working professionals at its campus in downtown Chicago, as well as the dual-degree MBA/MSBA in South Bend that was introduced in the fall of 2017.
They also recognize what a selling point the historic campus is.
Not only does the new MSBA program’s website boast frequent references to that campus’s best-known features, but applicants who are strongly committed to coming to South Bend have their own “early round” application deadline. And Notre Dame’s celebrated grounds are among the first thing mentioned by Ron Easley, who designed the curriculum for the new program when he spoke recently with Poets&Quants.
“A number of years ago we launched a niche program, an MSBA for working professionals in the Chicago market, and it made sense then to go after a niche market rather than try to jump in with a residential program, which was a much more competitive market,” says Easley, John W. Berry Sr. professor of business and chair of the Information Technology, Analytics, and Operations Department at Notre Dame Mendoza. “We were getting applications or people expressing interest who were either too young for the executive-style program in Chicago, or they hadn’t worked much or weren’t working at all. We were hearing from people who didn’t want an MBA, they just wanted the MSBA. So we thought, ‘OK, now is the time to enter the traditional core market.’
“There was some experimentation with online and distance delivery,” Easley adds, “but the school has backed away from that approach because it’s just not part of the Notre Dame way of doing things. People come here for a real immersive experience, and for the alumni network, so we thought, ‘Let’s leverage those advantages and jump into the major market,’ so to speak.”
A STABLE CURRICULUM ACROSS 3 PROGRAMS
Rob Easley, John W. Berry Sr. professor of business and chair of the Information Technology, Analytics, and Operations Department. Notre Dame photo
The one-year graduate MSBA program is intended for “pre-professional” students with little or no work experience. It comes as a result, partly, of the school receiving applications that didn’t quite fit in Mendoza’s other offerings.
“We’ve been running our MS in Business Analytics Chicago program for working professionals with great success, and over the years we’ve seen a number of applicants who would benefit greatly from an MSBA, but who did not fit the profile of that program,” Easley says. “They were either recent graduates that didn’t have the work experience, or international students interested in the STEM degree who wouldn’t be able to work while earning their degree.
“This new program will allow both of those groups to benefit from the rigorous analytics curriculum we’ve honed over the years, as well as the excellent international reputation of the Mendoza College of Business. We feel like we’ve learned a lot, and in the meantime we’ve developed our curriculum to the point where it’s pretty stable across all three programs and we’re happy with it.”
Scott Nestler, associate teaching professor and data analytics expert, will serve as the MSBA academic director.
Besides the advantages of history and reputation, how will this program distinguish itself from what else is on the market? “The main thing people will notice right away is that we have a required ethics course,” Easley says. “We have a conference that we’re running this fall on the ethics of artificial intelligence, we have faculty that are devoted to teaching ethics courses, and we have that as a course in all of our MSBA programs. There may be a few others that do that, but we really are concerned that we educate the students about the kind of ethical considerations they need to bring to bear when they’re working with confidential data, or when they’re addressing issues about the kind of questions that you can ask of data, and that it is tempting to ask — but that you shouldn’t ask.
“The other piece is, the curriculum is very general. We hit all of the foundational pieces. We have advanced statistics courses, we go into machine learning and artificial intelligence and natural language processing, and then we also have some of the traditional optimization. So I think we try to have a balance across all of the component disciplines in the analytics area. And we have faculty that are expert in all of those areas, so we’re not repurposing faculty to teach in this area: We actually hire people with Ph.D’s in statistics or computer science or operations research, and they are teaching those courses.”
What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? Intended either as a “fifth year” for students just completing their undergraduate degrees, or for those with limited work experience, MSBA prerequisites to application include a GMAT or GRE score (waived for Notre Dame students), and at least one course each in statistics, accounting, and an additional business course in finance, management, or marketing. Business undergraduates (other than business analytics majors) are welcome to apply, as are students from a range of backgrounds, including science business majors, or economics majors with a business minor.
Applicants must submit one essay, with photos, that respond to the following prompt: “We want to know who you are beyond your transcripts and test scores, so we ask that you upload three photos that represent your passions and personal interests. Then, use your essay to tell us what each photo represents. We are interested in what the images say about you, not in the quality of the photos. Feel free to use stock images, symbols, landscapes, or your own pictures — you do not have to be present in the photos.”
Information sessions will be held on the South Bend campus throughout the fall of 2018; see here for details.
Who is the ideal applicant and student for the MSBA? “We anticipate that a large part of our applications will be students drawn to this program directly out of undergrad,” Easley says. “They will need to have a little bit of a business background. We have some minimum expectations there — at least an accounting course and a statistics course, maybe one other business course. But we kept that to a minimum so that if a student is from arts and letters or science background they could, in the summer between their senior year and the start of this program, meet that prerequisite.
“We also anticipate getting some people with a few years of business experience, and maybe they’re trying to change careers, change career paths, that sort of thing. So it’s a different audience there than the ones we have in Chicago who are actually engaged in their day-to-day work lives with analytics. But if someone is working in marketing or accounting or something like that and they’re looking to make the jump over to analytics, they would be an ideal candidate for this new program. Certainly, they should have a comfort level with the quant side of things, which is why we have the statistics course (prerequisite) in there.”
What are the application deadlines?
The early round deadline is designed for applicants who are strongly committed to Notre Dame for their MSBA; as such, early-decision candidates are expected to withdraw their candidacy from other business schools and must provide a non-refundable $1,500 deposit. International candidates are encouraged to apply by the February 19 deadline at the latest.
What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? The Notre Dame MSBA is a four-module, 31-credit-hour program that includes 27 hours of required courses and four credit hours of electives. The program’s goal is “to provide a rigorous education in applying analytical techniques to massive data sets to solve business problems — knowledge that has become critically important due to revolutionary advances in information technology,” according to a school news release. Coursework includes foundational classes such as data management, predictive analytics, and machine learning, as well as specific applications in sports analytics, marketing research, emerging issues in analytics and data storytelling. The program also provides focused career planning and coaching.
“In addition to learning about cutting-edge data analytics, our MSBA students have the opportunity to explore the ethical dimensions of collecting and analyzing data to promote business as a force for good in society,” says Katherine Spiess, associate dean for graduate programs at Mendoza. “And, as members of the Notre Dame family, our graduates join one of the most loyal and engaged alumni networks in the world.”
How can students prepare themselves before the program begins? Books to read? TED Talks to watch? “We have a certain amount of pre-work that we do for our courses that typically does involve something like an online course or watching a few video lectures or something like that,” Easley says. “It’s basically to make sure that you are ready for the course when you start. We don’t do that for all the classes, but for some of the machine learning courses or data management courses, where you are going to be picking up some skills in R or something like that, we offer some pre-work on various platforms. Some of the students might be familiar with that, and they don’t have to do it, but the ones who have never heard of it and are a little nervous about it, they will have an opportunity to do that.”
What do you expect student outcomes to be? “We’re hoping initially to have a cohort of 20-30 students — we don’t mind starting small,” Easley says. “We are already offering all of the classes and we have developed them and we already have master’s-level students in them. So we can serve a relatively small class. They will have their own cohort in the first semester and then they will join the MBA students that are doing the dual degree in the second semester. In the long run, I’d like to really get to something like the 40-50 range, and then we would run it entirely as its own program with their own dedicated classes. We have a strategy of getting there slowly o we don’t have the pressure of having to jump straight to the big class.
“Right now with our dual-degree students, our first class are in internships now and we have a 100% placement rate with them. They are getting their MBA and MSBA in two years; next year we will have experience placing them to full-time positions. So my hope would be that in the long term, we continue to have really excellent placement rates and salaries with these students.”