Spurred by Ohio State's breakthrough data analytics major, young alumni are bringing deep expertise in the field to the workforce.
When Brett Bejcek graduated last May, he and six other new alumni were part of the first-ever class to major in data analytics as undergraduates. And he is psyched about the distinction.
Originally a triple major in actuarial science, finance and marketing, he jumped on the data analytics major the moment it launched during his sophomore year. “I knew this was exactly where the future was headed,” he says.
Bejcek’s own future includes a plum job with PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he interned last summer.
“I’ll be working with clients Monday through Thursday, and during that time you get to work on a very close-knit team on a challenging problem,” he says. “Then, after a few months, you move on to a new client and a whole new problem to solve. It’s perfect for me.”
Students with data analytics knowledge and skills are in high demand and short supply these days, according to a new report from PwC and the Business-Higher Education Forum, a national organization of business and university leaders.
As an example of what employers should look for in an educational partner, it points to Ohio State’s new Translational Data Analytics Institute. TDAI was created to make Ohio State a hub for all things data analytics. One of its first tasks was to conduct an institution-wide scan of graduate-level classes related to big data to determine unmet needs.
Not surprisingly, it found that nearly every Ohio State college offered such courses.
“The ability to collect information; manage it; code, organize and analyze it; and present it in a way that others can understand — those are skills that transcend across the disciplines,” says Dorinda Gallant, a TDAI faculty member in residence who co-authored its report. She also is an associate professor of quantitative research, evaluation and measurement in the College of Education and Human Ecology.
The scan also revealed a need for two new degrees: a professional science master’s, which TDAI is now creating, and an interdisciplinary master of science, both in translational data analytics.
Meanwhile, about 170 students are pursuing the new interdisciplinary undergraduate major, the first of its kind at a major American research university. The students, about 40 percent of whom are women, graduate with a bachelor of science from the College of Arts and Sciences and specializations in business, computer science, biomedical informatics or social science.
“The demand is exploding for people who are trained and understand data and can use that data for programs,” says Tom Murnane ’70, ’78 MBA. “I’m so proud of our university that we’re out on the forefront of this. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to bring companies in and hopefully gain more and more partners. I think partnerships will make our programs even more robust and more important to serving our various stakeholders in society.”
Murnane retired as a partner at PwC, where he led retail strategy consulting. He now runs his own consulting firm, ARC Business Advisors in Los Angeles, and gives his time to causes he believes in, including Ohio State. He championed the partnership with PwC, which has hired a member of that first class of undergraduate majors.
For that student and his classmates, the future is full of possibility. “Data analytics applies to everything,” Bejcek says. “You sort of get to go where your heart desires.”