Price College of Business, an active industry-academia alliance paving way to excel analytics education

Radhika Santhanam

It has become an intrinsic truth that modern day industries are data-driven and there is enormous value in data processing and analysis, which keeps related professionals into spotlight. As the big data industry is flourishing, the demand of analytics and data science experts/professionals is also escalating. Any industry willing to use their data well, data science works as an add on to their business. Analytics Insight interviewed Radhika Santhanam, Chairperson of MIS (Management Information System) Division at Michael F. Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma Norman over the institution’s Big Data and Analytics academic program and its contribution in transforming the future of education.


Analytics Insight: How is Price College of Business, The University of Oklahoma’s Analytics Program contributing to the growth and transformation of analytics and big data education?

Radhika Santhanam: Through design of a flexible, high-quality, graduate program in business analytics, and by placing our talented graduate students in a variety of organizations, we are contributing to the growth of analytics and big data education.  Business students can develop data analytics skills within a year of their earning their undergraduate degree in information systems. They develop strong skills in information technology and analytics. MBA students can complete the Analytics program within an additional semester or two, allowing them to develop skills in programming and analytics. We provide several pathways to earn a degree. Hence, students from a diverse background can learn data analytics skills and apply them to transform organizational practices in marketing, strategy, accounting, information systems or finance – whatever role they choose.


Analytics Insight: What is the edge Price College of Business, The University of Oklahoma’s Business Analytics has over other institutes in the industry?

Radhika Santhanam: Our Management Information Systems (MIS) division houses the Center for MIS studies, an academic-industry partnership with members from many different organizations. Therefore, our program benefits from close collaboration with these industry professionals who provide suggestions to ensure that our curriculum is leading-edge and relevant to industry. Our program is intentionally designed to be agile, so we add and drop courses quickly. Our program is also intentionally designed to be flexible so that students may personalize their program to suit their background and interest, including the option to take a few courses outside of our college.


Analytics Insight: Kindly brief us about your role at Price College of Business, The University of Oklahoma’s Analytics and Data Science Program and your journey in this highly promising sector.

Radhika Santhanam: A few years ago, I was given the responsibility to be the Chairperson of the MIS division. Although it seemed a little late in this space, I initiated the Business Analytics program with support from our faculty and administration. It was a bare-bones program with a few courses in Data Science and Business Intelligence. Students showed great interest; consequently, we offered a larger number of courses to design a comprehensive and flexible program in Business Analytics. Our enrollment has grown tremendously. In three years, we now have a full-fledged 32 credit program that is ranked among the top 25 Business Analytics programs in the country.


Analytics Insight: How is your institute different from other players providing analytics training and education? 

Radhika Santhanam: Our division and the Price College is closely connected to the local industry and community. Therefore, students get many opportunities to interact and observe real-world practices through internships, projects, etc. Our industry partners participate in curriculum development and engage with our students through visits, talks, and mentorship. Our industry partners support us financially so that many of our students get scholarships that help them complete their education. We allow our students flexibility in the courses they take. Some students may opt for a deep dive in analytics programming, while others may choose a deep dive into health analytics or social analytics. Giving choices to students and real-world experiences helps to keep students interested and well-prepared to take up jobs.


Analytics Insight: Can you brief us about the course curriculum and pedagogy of analytics education at Prince College of Business, the University of Oklahoma?

Radhika Santhanam: Our program offers several different pathways to earn a degree in analytics. Undergraduate business students can earn their graduate degree within a year of their undergraduate program through what is known as an accelerated program. Some students work hard and make good choices of elective courses that they earn their undergraduate and graduate degree within four years.  MBA students, whether they are doing it part-time or full-time, can earn their dual degree in Business Analytics with a few extra semesters. Students who want to solely pursue the full-time degree in Analytics can do so without having to do an MBA. Additionally, graduate students can earn a graduate certificate in Analytics with a smaller set of courses.


Analytics Insight: What have been the most significant challenges that the Price College of Business, The University of Oklahoma has faced at the forefront of analytics?

Radhika Santhanam: Delivering a good quality analytics program require substantial investments in technology and faculty resources, and we have faced challenges on this front.  There is a shortage of data analytics skills which applies to faculty talent as well. We are managing this situation through several ways, one of which is to recruit some of our top graduates to return and help us instructors.


Analytics Insight: Why do you think there’s a need for a specialized program in Big Data Analytics?

Radhika Santhanam: A specialized program is required because Data Analytics students must develop unique perspectives and skills relating to data management and analysis. Hence, a focused and purposeful program is necessary to train students on this new paradigm for data collection, management and analysis.  Students require special knowledge and training to develop their creativity and problem-solving skills with data and technology.


Analytics Insight: Tell us about the faculty associated with the program and their experience?

Radhika Santhanam: We have a good team of engaged and knowledgeable faculty, many of whom are globally renowned scholars. They have interests in various aspects of Analytics, Data Management, Programming, Modelling, Social analytics, Visualization, Business processes, Health analytics and Machine learning.  Together, we work as a team to offer an innovative and relevant curriculum that give our students an excellent Business Analytics education and experiences.

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