By all accounts Laura Floyd was doing fine. After graduating from DePaul with a B.S. in Marketing in 2005 she landed a job with a market research firm. Yet after seven years doing market research surveys, she knew there was something missing.

“There’s only so much you can find out from a survey,” Floyd says. “We knew our clients had a lot of data available that they weren’t utilizing. I could see that with more advanced statistical techniques we could help them make better business decisions.”

Floyd spoke about her data struggles to Nina Diamond, one of her DePaul undergraduate marketing professors and someone who helped her land her first job out of college. Diamond once again offered a pathway to help.

She told her about the M.S. in Predictive Analytics. The degree, offered through the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers students the option to choose three business concentrations and was created with the guidance of Sue Fogel, chair of the Department of Marketing at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

“[Diamond] sent me the information and I thought it seemed perfect,” says Floyd who graduated with the degree in June. She now works as an Analyst at Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett. “I still wanted to focus on the business issues, but I also wanted to learn the technical skills necessary to extract more complex data and analyze it.” 
Data: Not Just For Programmers Anymore

Data used to be mainly the realm of information technology specialists who worked with databases to produce thick reports for financial institutions or government entities. No more.

Today with Amazon tracking your every purchase, Facebook following your status updates and Netflix trying to predict which movie you’ll want to watch on Wednesday night, data has entered the business realm in a huge way.

DePaul’s M.S. in Predictive Analytics is designed to teach students not only how to extract data but also how to interpret what the data actually means.

“Someone has to make sense of that data,” Fogel says. “Someone has to understand how that data fits into creating best business practices and what all that data can tell a company and how it can affect a company’s decision-making process.”

Data has gone from the back room to the boardroom and there is a need for data mining specialists who can extract, understand and explain the data, says Raffaella Settimi-Woods, associate professor at CDM.

Blending Business and Data Analysis

Floyd says the MS in Predictive Analytics is especially useful because it focuses on the business and application side of analytics. In the program, students work with real-world applications using actual data to do their analysis and research.

“The advantages of this degree are that you get enough of the theory to understand what you’re doing, but then you’re right away applying it,” says Floyd. “The business emphasis is great because you look at the data while keeping in mind that someone has to actually use this data to make a business decision. We can take a step back, look at what we’ve extracted, see how it makes sense and explain it to someone else.”

The MS in Predictive Analytics has 13 courses and four concentrations in Computational Methods, Marketing, Hospitality and Health Care Analysis. The latter three are Kellstadt Graduate School of Business concentrations. So far, the program's students have worked on large data analysis projects with such entities as the Big Shoulders Fund, a Chicago nonprofit which provides scholarships to students attending Catholic schools, as well as the Chicago Police Department, analyzing auto-theft data. Students have gone on to work at Amazon, Facebook, Leo Burnett and a host of other companies.

“What at I learned with this degree are skills I’m using every day,” says Floyd, who works with a client that has a database of information about tens of millions of people. Floyd does predictive modeling and segmentation as well as forecasting. “I have to look at our analysis and make it meaningful for our end-user. That is something I would not have been able to do without those business classes.” 

Fogel says the collaborative effort with CDM is just the “tip of the iceberg,” for Kellstadt’s foray into creating degrees that provide students with the skills to use big data to advance business.

Last fall, the School of Hospitality Leadership launched an MBA concentration in Revenue Management ​that focuses using data analytics to enhance revenue streams in the hospitality industry.  The school also partnered with Smith Travel Research, a leader in lodging industry benchmarking and research, to form the Revenue Management Alliance (RMA), which provides the hospitality industry with data analytics on best practices in the field.

The RMA seeks to improve collaboration between hospitality academy educators and industry practitioners in the area of revenue management while disseminating pertinent trend information. (Read more on DePaul’s Newsroom) 

Other DePaul programs and initiatives that focus on data analysis include: