Big Data, Data Science

Seizing the moment

Miami Business School’s data analytics program applies data science concepts to advance commerce.

Seizing the moment

Miami Business School’s data analytics program applies data science concepts to advance commerce.
by Janette Neuwahl Tannen
UM News

When Qiongwen Fan started working as a trade director at a global logistics company in China, she swiftly noticed how her company was using data to improve their international shipping routes and increase revenue. She saw the company harnessing accounting analytics to find solutions to daily problems and Fan started to notice that she was unable to keep up with the technology.

When Qiongwen Fan

“I feared that my job might be replaced someday if I didn’t learn more,” she said.  “And I realized that if I focused more on data analytics, I could use that to make better business hypotheses and analyses.”

Fan decided to apply for the Master’s in Business Analytics (MSBA) program at the Miami Business School and once accepted, she moved to the United States. She began taking classes in the fall of 2018, and Fan is just one of a growing number of students entering the program, which at five years old is quickly gaining popularity.

When the MSBA program began in the fall of 2013, there were just 11 students. This fall, 93 students enrolled, said assistant professor Daniel McGibney, one of the co-directors of the MSBA program. Although the higher degree is especially appealing to students who are well versed in statistics and computer science, students of all backgrounds can and do apply.

“Everybody in every industry needs analytics, so we’re not just recruiting business school students—we take in engineers, those in the sciences, political science students, those in the media—you name it because everybody uses data today,” McGibney said.

Miami Business School
Daniel McGibney and Doug Lehmann, co-directors of the MBSA program.

Students in the MSBA program usually complete the degree in one academic year. They start with an introduction to computer programming and a course about how to clean up data, paired with high-level statistics classes. These are all crucial for being able to analyze data today, McGibney added. Then, MSBA students move on to data mining, and critical thinking as well as persuasion in business. During their final semester, students take classes in machine learning, a technique that teaches computers to “learn” from the data using algorithms, and they also take a course on time-series analysis, which focuses on data that changes over time, like stock prices. Students also learn how to use different technological models with data, which can help them solve problems in finance, marketing, insurance, sports, human resources, and health care.

Throughout all of the classes one variable does not change—students must use computer coding, McGibney said. And before graduating from the program, students must complete a capstone project where they tackle a problem for businesses such as Deloitte, the Miami Dolphins, Citi, or even Hertz rental car using their new analytics skills.

MSBA student Karla Portela’s project includes considering whether online promotions either encourage or discourage booking for a cruise line. Portela and her team of three other students must also use their analytics skills to determine the optimal amount of time before departure that cruise lines should e-mail consumers, so that they actually book a cruise.Karla Portela

“In the program, you’re able to actually apply everything you learned in class to real-world problems,” she said.

Doug Lehmann, co-director of the program, spends most of his time outside the classroom trying to find these problems by building relationships with local companies for new capstone projects. He also works to ensure the MSBA program is using the latest techniques and software to prepare students for the professional world. As a result of the directors’ efforts, most students who graduate are employed. Last spring, McGibney said 94 percent of students had jobs within the first three months of finishing the program.

Portela appreciates this determination. She said that every Friday, students can attend an information session with a different company that comes to the Miami Business School. Before their visit, those companies are given access to a database of MSBA student resumes and can decide if they would like to interview anyone after the presentation.

“We want to give students face time with companies in hopes of getting them out there,” Lehmann said.

A few months shy of graduation Portela was already offered a marketing analytics job with a major airline from a campus visit, but she has learned that employers now prefer MSBA students in general.

“On an interview, I was told that companies love recruiting from UM and specifically from this program because while other analysts live out their professional career using Microsoft Excel, in our program, you get a taste of every programming language and software, and the companies enjoy working with MSBA students because we are willing to learn more and use other [analytics programs],” Portela said.

Although the program has been extremely challenging, Portela, who also did her undergraduate degree at UM in marketing, said she is glad that she decided to continue her studies because it allowed her to get a better job than she could have anticipated. Plus, she learned coding, which Portela had no experience with before the MSBA program.

“My focus had always been marketing, so gaining exposure to analytics is helpful because now I can pinpoint what’s driving consumers and know the why behind it,” Portela said.

For more information, visit the program’s website:


Related Stories

Big Data, Data Science, University of Miami
Plotting the future through data
The University of Miami is focused on using data science to drive its students and research to new heights
Big Data, Data Science, Miller School of Medicine
Snapshots of data science in action

Faculty and students at the University of Miami are involved with numerous novel projects that benefit from the use of big data.

Big Data, Data Science, Center for Computational Science
The next generation of computing

A new supercomputer at the University of Miami will accelerate data analysis and research across its campuses.

Big Data, Data Science
Solving Miami-Dade’s affordable housing shortage with LAND
A new tool developed by the University of Miami with support from Citi Community Development has identified thousands of vacant parcels of public land that could be used for affordable housing.