Winter Archways 2014-2015

Page 29


Digital information instantly traverses continents and oceans. Companies can track customer activity like never before, producing huge amounts of data. Interpreting that data into practical results that can drive corporate decision-making is the primary focus of a developing field known as business analytics. In response to the burgeoning demand for analysts and interpreters, the Department of Statistics, Operations, and Management Science has adopted a fresh title: the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics.


he department’s new moniker reflects a curriculum change and a trend toward discipline integration, both of which have been in progress for several years. “In 2010, we were the first college of business to create an analytics program,” says former department head Kenneth Gilbert. “From the start, we aspired to make it the best.” Faculty members also created an atmosphere of open communication. “Although the management science program joined statistics a decade ago, the two remained separate on a practical level,” department head Chuck Noon explains. “Faculty members’ offices were on different floors, and our degree programs were essentially distinct.” Five years ago, that changed. “We moved onto the same floor and became much more integrated.”

Curriculum That Connects Because faculty members are connected with corporate leaders via the Business Analytics Forum, important curriculum decisions are based on the needs of prospective employers in a digital era. “In general, there’s a move toward data-driven decision making,” says Noon. “The plumbing is already in place. Companies have end-to-end information systems with the ability to capture every transaction and every look at a webpage. The data is starting to flow, and there’s a growing need for individuals who can extract it, do valid analysis, and communicate it to leaders to drive decisions.” To better equip business analytics graduates, Gilbert says the department recently hired several new faculty members who specialize in data analysis including Haileab Hilafu, Michel Ballings, and Julie Ferrara. “The new hires reflect the changing focus of this discipline,” he says. “For example, Ferrara specializes in digital analytics, digital marketing, and website usability. Traditionally, those elements would not be part of a statistics department, but they’re very relevant in the current world of business analytics.”

Left to right: Michel Ballings,

Julie Ferrara, Chuck Noon, HASLAM.UTK.EDU | 27 and Haileab Hilafu.

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