New Degrees Expand Reach

Dani Bauer, associate professor of risk and insurance at the Wisconsin School of Business
Dani Bauer, associate professor of risk and insurance, leads a discussion on machine learning for a class that will be part of the new MS degree in business analytics.

Providing a world-class business education has long been a mission of the Wisconsin School of Business, and soon even more students will get an opportunity to access it.

In Fall 2019, WSB will offer three new specialized master of science degree programs in business analytics, real estate, and supply chain management. The School created the new one-year programs in consultation with employers, students, alumni, advisory board members, and industry leaders. Students graduating from business and other majors can add a year to their education and gain skills and expertise to enhance their career trajectory and earnings potential.

“These innovative programs address a market need and broaden the menu of offerings at UW–Madison,” says interim Albert O. Nicholas Dean Barry Gerhart. “These fields show strong demand across a number of metrics and are built on a rich history of top-ranked specialized offerings at WSB.”

While real estate and supply chain management programs have offered MS degrees in the past, business analytics is a new master’s program at WSB. Eight new classes have been created for the degree, including statistics and programming, machine learning, data visualization, project management, business insights, and a capstone consulting practicum.

With an MS in business analytics, graduates will enter the workforce with an understanding of data and business decision-making, serving a key role in organizations between analysts and management.

“There is so much data that surrounds businesses. They need people with the ability to process it and create insights,” says Kristin Branch, director of business analytics and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research at WSB. “Companies know that’s the differentiator, and it’s only going to increase.”

Alumni gifts provide seed investment

Philanthropy was instrumental in establishing the new MS in business analytics. Lead gifts from Tom Stevens (BA ’72, BBA ’75, MBA ’76) and Patrick Thiele (BBA ’72, MS ’75) helped secure resources to start the program, which aims to enroll 20 students next fall and eventually grow to as many as 100 students. The School’s MS will be the only face-to-face business analytics degree in the University of Wisconsin System.

“The need for business analysts vastly outnumbers the students qualified for them,” Branch says. “Many industry publications have talked about the need for companies to train business analysts directly or for universities to develop more programs. WSB is helping to answer that call.”

Dale Nitschke (BBA ’84), founder and CEO of digital analytics consulting company Ovative Group, believes the degree will position students well in the marketplace.

“I am very excited about this degree,” says Nitschke, a member of the WSB Dean’s Advisory Board. “It provides the ideal opportunity for students to take a deep dive into data analytics and gain a foundation of technical skills and applicable knowledge. These valuable skills can accelerate a young professional’s ability to impact business, giving graduates a real opportunity to quickly advance in their careers.”

Dale Nitschke (BBA ’84)
These valuable skills can accelerate a young professional’s ability to impact business, giving graduates a real opportunity to quickly advance in their careers.

Dale Nitschke (BBA ’84)
Founder and CEO, Ovative Group

Preparing for the digital economy

The MS degree will take a balanced approach to business analytics, with students learning equal parts descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive methods. Another hallmark of the WSB degree will be the applications courses that pertain to specific industries, such as health care, marketing, or supply chain.

Dani Bauer, associate professor of risk and insurance and the Hickman-Larson Chair in Actuarial Science, says the strength of WSB’s new MS degree is in its curricular design, with students learning analytic tools and methods in the first semester, followed by applications courses and an applied learning project in the second semester. MS students will gain the expertise to go from data to decisions.

“Analytics is about the tools and knowing how to use them,” says Bauer, who was on the team that developed the business analytics program. “There’s a revolution going on. If you want to prepare your students for the digital economy, you have to train them.”

Building on a legacy

The MS degree programs in real estate and supply chain management build on a solid legacy of established programs and knowledge centers.

“Alumni recognize a need for rigorously trained real estate professionals who can thoughtfully analyze property and investment decisions,” says Mark Eppli, director of the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate.

Students and young professionals also have expressed a desire for that additional education, Eppli says.

“They recognize that a one-year concentrated program is really what can help them hone their critical thinking skills,” he says.

Kristin Branch, director of business analytics and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, leads a panel discussion
Kristin Branch, director of business analytics and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, discusses WSB’s new master’s degrees on a panel with Mark Eppli, director of the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate (left) and Jake Dean, director of the Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management.

A chance to deepen knowledge

In real estate, the MS prepares students from a variety of educational backgrounds to handle the complexities of real estate transactions. They will acquire knowledge in areas that include development, real estate finance, urban planning, and valuations. Professional opportunities might be in private equity real estate firms, investment banks, commercial real estate lending, and low-income housing, Eppli says.

The MS degree in supply chain management will provide expert training to guide cross-functional business processes. Relevant topics will include operations, marketing, analytics and information management, and risk management.

“Supply chains today face many challenges,” says Jake Dean, director of WSB’s Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management. “Everybody wants to be the next Amazon, delivering goods to your door near-instantly after you order them. The consumer expectations this has created are very difficult to achieve profitably from a supply chain perspective. Our graduates will be well-suited to tackle those problems and lead the next generation in supply chain thinking.”

The new MS degrees create a new option for students who want to increase their education. The MS degrees join existing graduate-level opportunities at WSB—including the full-time, evening, and executive MBA programs. Students in the MS programs will come from several constituencies. Some will start right after earning their undergraduate degrees at UW–Madison in business or another major. Some might have an undergraduate degree from another university. Others will return to WSB after a few years in the workforce, but with less work experience than Wisconsin MBA students traditionally have. The new degree options will also draw international students.

That makes this an exciting time for the Wisconsin School of Business, says Enno Siemsen, associate dean for MBA and master’s programs.

“As we expand our portfolio of degree offerings, these new MS programs will enable us to support an increasing number of students who aspire to careers in business,” Siemsen says. “We look forward to the opportunity to build on WSB’s strengths in providing specialized business education.”

Visit go.wisc.edu/wsb-ms to learn more about WSB’s new MS degrees:

  • Master of Science-Business: Supply Chain Management
  • Master of Science-Business: Operations and Technology Management: Business Analytics
  • Master of Science-Business: Real Estate and Urban Land Economics: Real Estate
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