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Data is the Future

Three Ichabods become first graduates of data analytics program

The three 2022 data analytics majors posing on campus

Cate Moody (left), Brandon Michael (center) and Diana Martinez-Ponce all graduated this spring with Washburn’s first degrees offered in data analytics. Photo by Doug Stremel

From The Ichabod - Spring 2022
By Angela Lutz

With a new data analytics program, the Washburn University School of Business is looking toward the future. This proactive, forward-thinking curriculum that focuses on analyzing raw data to look for meaningful insights not only benefits businesses, but also helps graduates get hired. When Washburn student Cate Moody interviewed for an internship, she mentioned she was considering majoring in data analytics, and the company said they would have a permanent job for her if she did.

“One of the coolest things about this program is how excited future employers get when they learn you're in data analytics,” Moody said. “There have been several times where I’ve been speaking to employers and let them know I’m in a data analytics program, and they’ve immediately requested an interview.”

Along with Brandon Michael and Diana Martinez-Ponce, Moody will be among the first three Washburn students to graduate with a data analytics major this spring. In addition to the major, the data analytics program includes a core course for all business students, as well as a minor and a certificate program for students pursuing any degree at Washburn and alumni seeking skills to enhance their career. For School of Business Professor Gail Hoover King, who teaches the core course and has taken the lead in developing the program, data analytics represents an important shift in the way organizations of all sizes and types make decisions and do business.

“Good business decisions are data driven,” she said. “With data analytics, we can scrape the web and figure out what customers are saying. We can look at all types of data and all types of formats from all sources – not just what the company collects. Anybody who is able to take that data and convert it into information that helps make data-driven decisions is going to improve any organization’s ability to not only improve what they do but strategize for the future and to remain competitive.”

Washburn began developing the data analytics program in 2019 in response to these changing needs in the business world. That’s when David Sollars, dean, School of Business, hired King to start the program as a visiting professorship funded by the Richard K. and Lynne Patricia Davidson School of Business Professorship fund. A lifelong accounting professor who has previously taught at Rockhurst University and Purdue University Northwest, King saw an incredible professional opportunity in developing the program at Washburn, as she has been intensively focused on data analytics since 2014.

“The future of accounting is data analytics, and the future of business is that as well,” she said. “I saw an opportunity to be on the ground floor putting data analytics into a program. You don’t get many opportunities like this – development of the data analytics course and program was a prefect opportunity to use my education and background in data analysis and accounting.”

Michael also appreciates the way data analytics combines the marketing and number-based aspects of business, which appeals to the introversion and extroversion aspects of his personality and keeps the subject interesting.

“What I like about business is you have the qualitative side of it, where you have your sales, marketing and presentation, and then you have the quantitative side, where you have the accounting, finance and economics,” Michael said. “Data analytics combines both of these attributes. Not only do we need to understand and interpret the data, we also need to present it in a meaningful way.”

Data analytics is useful not only to business majors but to a wide variety of disciplines. The program is structured around data analysis process and teaches students methods of analyzing data. According to King, this has led to a great deal of interest among all Washburn students – and alumni who want to return to Washburn to gain data analytics skills.

“The tools and skills we teach are generalizable across the spectrum of majors,” King said. “Our program is very agile in the fact that we can stay up to date with what’s important in that field – the tools and the skill sets. We teach students the process of data analysis, which can be used over and over again regardless of the software tools or discipline in which it is applied.”

For Michael, the job hunt begins in May. But with his newly minted degree, he is confident he will find the high-end remote position he desires while remaining in Kansas. Moody is also excited about how her data analytics experience will impact her academic and professional future.

“Data analytics is a rapidly growing field, and it ties into all aspects of business,” she said. “I was excited Washburn decided to offer it as there are few schools in the state that have the program, and I soon learned how many opportunities it could give me.”

The Ichabod Magazine Winter 2022 cover - Memorial Union with snow, pine needles in the foreground

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