New Data Analytics minor to be offered beginning fall semester

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April 27, 2020

By Mike Killeen

data analytics

New Data Analytics minor will have broad appeal to students across many disciplines.

One needs to go no further than the COVID-19 outbreak to see the value of data analytics. Models are patterned on data, which allows leaders to make important health and safety decisions.

“Data analysis and data analytics pervades the public conversation these days whether you are reading The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times,” said Parker Wheatley, professor of economics at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University 

Now, building on existing strengths of many departments, CSB and SJU will offer students a slice of that analytical perspective in the form of a new Data Analytics minor in the fall of 2020.

The program co-directors – Wheatley, Bob Hesse (associate professor of mathematics) and Imad Rahal (professor of computer science) - believe the new minor will have broad appeal to students across many disciplines.

“Data analytics is a central tool for decision-making, and whether a person’s profession is as an epidemiologist, accountant, marketing manager, physician, political adviser, nurse, teacher, historian or biologist … they will be immersed in data as they attempt to make good choices in a rapidly changing environment,” Hesse said.

“Real decisions are made based on data these days.  Moreover, it is increasingly the case that graduate programs are encouraging students to take course/programs in data analysis before they start their studies,” Wheatley added.

The minor mirrors the liberal arts mission of CSB and SJU as the program will help students to think deeply and ethically about the data and problems they address.

Over two years ago, Wheatley, Hesse and Rahal, with the support of Academic Affairs leadership and President Emeritus Michael Hemesath, began conversations with other faculty members to bring the minor to life. Reflecting the collaborative spirit of the colleges, faculty members shared their time and ideas in its development.

“We were very, very deliberate in our work because we just didn’t want to throw something together but wanted to consider the demand, the value in the liberal arts and how much of this we’re already doing,” the trio of professors wrote as rationale for the minor.

“In the end, we all agreed that by constructing a program in Data Analytics we were serving the ideals of the liberal arts while also preparing students to engage in life after college,” they wrote. “Students will, through the data classes, learn the technique skills which they can apply to their discipline. Upon graduation, these students will not only be able to analyze data, but be able to communicate their work through presentations, conversations or papers.”

“Bob, Parker and Imad took a very thoughtful and liberal arts approach to creating a minor that supports the development of a key skillset for any profession,” said Barb May, academic dean at CSB and SJU. “I am excited to be able to offer this to our students!”

The 22-credit minor features 14 required credits and eight credits of elective courses spread over the various disciplines. Departments with coursework contributing to the minor include Accounting and Finance, Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Environmental Studies, Global Business Leadership, Mathematics, Physics and Political Science.

Wheatley said all incoming first-year and sophomore students should be able to enroll in the new minor, adding some rising juniors may be able to complete it as well.

“This minor complements a student’s major,” Rahal said. “By its design, it is an integrated program that requires students to take the skills from the data analytics courses and combine them with knowledge gained from their major to answer questions not possible only a few years ago.”

“The … minor, rooted in the liberal arts and interdisciplinary in nature, provides opportunities for students to discover new knowledge and explore a variety of problems through the ethical acquisition and analysis of data,” Wheatley concluded.