When Michelle Skaf was helping her family transition their 20-year-old Lebanese restaurant into an e-commerce baklava shop, she realized the crucial role data would play in everything from optimizing product offerings to targeting marketing campaigns, to enhancing overall business performance.
But her background was in finance. She worked most recently as the financial operations director for her family’s restaurant group called Rockbird. When she started searching for a business program to expand her skillset, she looked for one that could help her gain insights in customer preferences and market trends from large data sources such as sales transactions, customer feedback, and website analytics.
“I was eager to broaden my expertise beyond finance and delve into the world of data analytics, which a traditional MBA program couldn’t offer to the same extent,” Skaf tells Poets&Quants.
She found such a program at New York University’s Stern School of Business: A part-time Master’s of Science in Business Analytics geared to working professionals from a variety of backgrounds.
“The program’s cohort comprises individuals from various industries and sectors, allowing for a rich exchange of ideas and experiences. The opportunity to travel for some of the modules adds an extra dimension to the program, enabling the cohort to forge lifelong friendships and simultaneously grasp the significance of data science in a global context,” says Skaf, MSBA ‘22, who served as the class representative for her cohort.
“Through these global experiences, students gain a broader perspective and develop a deeper appreciation for the role of data analytics in today’s interconnected world. Stern’s MSBA program not only equips students with technical skills but also cultivates a global mindset, preparing them to navigate the complexities of the data-driven business landscape.”
STERN’S MS IN BUSINESS ANALYTICS TURNS 10
On May 18, Stern celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its MSBA with alumni from around the country. It remains a unique program in an ever-crowded field.
These days, business analytic programs are ubiquitous at top schools, from Harvard Business School’s fully online certificate program lasting eight weeks, to Duke Fuqua’s one-year MS degree in quantitative management that can be taken either online or in-person.
But, when NYU Stern enrolled its first class MS in Business Analytics class in 2013, it was the first mover among the top business schools to launch such a degree. It launched just as big data technologies were emerging and industries needed experts to analyze the massive datasets.
The STEM degree takes one year to complete, delivered in a part-time, hybrid format that is organized in six in-person modules. Students spend between a few days to a week on each module, alternating between Stern’s New York City campus and rotating global locations such as Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and London. The program leverages NYU’s three degree-granting campuses and global network, and concludes with an applied capstone project.
“Stern’s MSBA is a global, modular program. Students get a panoramic perspective of the industry, learning from rotating international business analytics hubs. They are then able to instantly apply learnings in their current roles,” says MSBA academic director Anindya Ghose, the Heinz Riehl Chair Professor of Technology and Marketing at Stern and a Poets&Quants 40-Under-40 Best MBA Professors of 2014.
To this day, Stern’s business analytics program remains unique. While many MS programs are considered pre-professional (for students with one to two years of work experience), Stern’s MSBA requires a minimum of five years professional experience, and averages between 10 and 13 years of experience per class. Students keep their full-time jobs, taking about five weeks off from work over the course of the program.
SNAPSHOT OF STERN’S MSBA
While applications have risen consistently year over year, program enrollments have fallen from 60 for the first class to 48 for the latest. Enrollment peaked for the Class of 2018 with 73 students.
The Class of 2023 was 37.5% women, up from 25% for the Class of 2014. The latest class was also 58.33% international, up from 41.67% for the first class. In fact, since the Class of 2020, more than half of students have international backgrounds, coming from a range of countries including Colombia, U.A.E, Taiwan, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, South Korea, and many more.
“Because the program gives students the skills to be data scientists in any industry, many opportunities are available to graduates. Graduates have moved into big tech companies, marketing analytics, HR analytics, fintech roles and more,” says Ghose.
“The program’s alumni network, now 10 years strong, has also grown over the past decade and flourished among this tight-knit group. Students have been able to take advantage of those connections as well to pivot into new roles. Others are prepared to advance within their current organizations after graduating.”
When first designed, the curriculum focused on predictive modeling, or what will happen next, Ghose says. Focus has shifted over the last decade to causal inference – why did this happen and how will it impact the future? – to better meet professional demands on the job. The program regularly updates the curriculum to cover the most timely topics such as modern Artificial Intelligence, deep learning, Web 3.0, and econometrics.
“At its core, Stern’s MSBA empowers students to become data scientists who can leverage the potential of data analysis to drive decision making and innovate new opportunities for competitive advantage,” Ghose says.
“Business analytics are not only relevant, but necessary, for success across sectors, so we are now seeing a wider range of industry backgrounds from students, including financial services, consulting, manufacturing, retail, media and IT, to name a few.”
Courses are taught by Stern faculty whose research leads the global conversation in these fields. Examples include J.P. Eggers, vice dean of MBA and Graduate Programs; Foster Provost, director of Data Analytics and AI and Stern’s Fubon Center for Technology, Business and Innovation; Xi Chen, a 2021 P&Q 40-Under-40 Best MBA Professor; and Professor Arun Sundararajan, a 2015 Thinkers50 top management professor, among others.
Ghose’s own research and consulting, for example, focuses on the welfare impact of the Internet, mobile and AI technologies on industries and markets transformed by its shared infrastructure. He also studies the trade-offs between data privacy and benefits to consumers and the business impact of digital advertising and mobile marketing. He often incorporates these insights into his classroom teaching.
In addition, students visit companies in NYC and in the two other global locations to glean a global perspective on the field. Stern also invites a curated selection of industry experts with practical experience in data science application, applied statistics, process optimization, and business intelligence.
“I’ve said this a few times, but it’s worth repeating again – the alumni community for Stern’s MS in Business Analytics Program is truly exceptional,” Ghose says. “Last summer while I was in Singapore, I hosted a meetup for the local alumni. Every single alum who was in the country came. As I watched the graduates from different cohorts engage with one another and swap stories, I was struck by the powerful connections our program fosters around the world. It’s truly a worldwide, lifelong community and I am so happy to be a part of it.”
A CAREER PIVOT
Skaf credits her new role as senior financial analyst at NYU Bellevue's School of Medicine to the program.
“My Stern MSBA education has equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively analyze and interpret complex data, enabling me to provide valuable insights and financial analysis that support decision-making processes within the medical field. The rigorous coursework and practical experiences have been instrumental in my ability to excel in this role,” she tells P&Q.
In her cohort, one of the global modules was taught in London and the other at NYU Abu Dhabi where students engaged with business leaders at on-site company visits. Outside of class, the cohort explored the cities, culture and landmarks – including a wildlife safari and a traditional Arabian night event amongst ancient dunes in Abu Dhabi.
“The combination of academic growth and unforgettable experiences made the Abu Dhabi trip a highlight of my MSBA journey, fostering not only camaraderie among my peers but also a deeper appreciation for the global impact of data analytics,” Skaf says.
“The connections and relationships I formed with my cohort members truly made a lasting impact. Being part of a diverse and highly educated group provided me with a unique opportunity to expand my network and learn from my peers. In fact, by actively participating in alumni events, I was able to leverage these connections and ultimately secure an interview at NYU Langone.”
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