Villanova Online MSA Information Session

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Originally presented September 29, 2016


Beth Emperor: Welcome to the Villanova School of Business online MSA information session. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us this evening. My name is Beth Emperor and I will be your moderator for tonight’s presentation. All participants are in listen only mode so you can hear us, but we cannot hear you. Should you have any questions throughout tonight’s session, please type them into the question and answer box on the left hand side of the screen and hit send. We will answer as many questions as time allows at the end of the presentation. If your question was not answered during the session, one of our enrollment advisors will follow up with you directly. A recording of today’s presentation will be available shortly after the event and we will send you the link to the email address you provided at registration.

Our main presenter this evening will be Darlene Lakes, one of our graduate enrollment advisors for the MSA program. Tonight’s agenda will cover a brief overview of the Villanova School of Business, followed by a more detailed discussion of the online MSA program. Additionally, we will also touch on the admissions process and provide helpful hints to keep in mind when completing your application. We will conclude tonight’s presentation with a question and answer session with our enrollment advisor, as well as the director of graduate admissions, Claire Bruno, and Dr. Stephen Mahar, faculty director of MSA programs and associate professor, management and operations.

Kicking off the presentation this evening will be our graduate enrollment advisor Darlene Lakes. Thank you very much and welcome Darlene.

Darlene Lakes:  Thanks Beth. I would like to extend my welcome to everyone and thank you for joining us. To get started, I guess one of your questions would be why choose VSB for your MSA? Housed in the business school, the MSA program was designed with working professionals in mind and our goal has never been to teach just concepts, but to provide opportunities for application.

In this high touch learning environment, you will be able to work independently, but have access to faculty and classmates that represent a wide range of backgrounds and skillsets. The program is rigorous, but flexible. We give you the opportunity to design your education around your life without the expectation that you will be able to meet program requirements to earn your degree.

The online MSA program also has the advantage of providing students with business experience, as well as technical expertise, which can, in some cases, be immediately applied, regardless of organizational size or industry type. Having these combined abilities allows our students to bring value to their organization, in addition to differentiating themselves and creating professional opportunity.

Now at this point, let’s spend a few moments to focus on the structure, format and program curriculum. The online MSA program is designed to be completed in 20 months or five semesters. And each of those semesters is broken into two seven or eight week sessions. The curriculum is inclusive of 11 courses at three credits each for degree total of 33 credits. In terms of format, most of the course content is asynchronous, which means that students can review the material and work on assignments at times that does fit their schedules.

Each of our courses, however, does have a synchronous or live component, which is offered once a week in the evenings. The format of these sessions depends on the faculty, but some professors like to include lectures, others will have discussions or some will review specific assignments. Participation in the synchronous sessions is encouraged, but not required. And all of these sessions are recorded.

While courses are offered year round, entry points for new students are limited to the spring or fall semesters. The program is 100% online with no campus residency requirement. However, students are always welcome to join us for any on campus event, as well as attend our annual commencement ceremony held in the spring.

Now, I would like to take a few minutes to walk you through the structure of the MSA curriculum to outline how each course was specifically designed, developed and strategically placed in the curriculum to give you the skills needed to succeed as an analytics professional. During the first semester of the program, you will complete three courses: intro to business analytics, data models and multi-variant data analysis.

Intro to business analytics is a full-semester course, while data models is taught in the first half of the semester, and multi-variant in the second half. The intro course is going to give you an overview of business analytics, the business analytics process and important analytics techniques. After developing these foundational skills, you will be able to start building your analytics toolbox.

The three categories of tools are in the areas of data management and business intelligence, data mining and decision modeling. You’ll take two courses in each of these categories. For instance, under data management and business intelligence, you’ll have one course in enterprise data management and one in business intelligence. For data mining, you’ll have a course in data mining and another in text and web mining. Lastly, for decision modeling, you’ll have two courses in analytical methods for optimization and simulation parts one and two. These courses will be offered in the second, third and fourth semesters.

With this compilation of analytic skills, you will be able to graduate to a more advanced business applications course wherein you will examine a range of advanced analytics applications. Examples of those could include fraud detection, financial analytics, risk analytics, marketing and customer analytics or geospatial analytics.

Finally, the program culminates with the applications based practicum. During this capstone course, you and your assigned team will partner with an organization to tackle a real time business analytics project using the concepts and skills you’ve learned throughout the program. Since appropriate software is always evolving, our goal is to teach you the techniques that can be applied using a variety of different tools and software packages. Some examples of software you can expect to use include SQL, R, Fast JumpPro, B Plex and many more. By program completion, you will have developed the skills and experience needed to succeed as an analytics professional and be able to assist any organization in making more strategic and informed decisions.

Now, let’s take a look at the faculty and expertise. The MSA faculty is drawn from various departments within our schools and our instructors possess expertise in all phases of business analytics, including information systems, statistics, mathematical modeling and analysis, operations research, decision support systems and most significantly, applications of analytics within all the functional areas of business. They are active and up to date in their field of research and many are engaged in consulting.

The Center for Business Analytics has been instrumental in the development of this program. They provide counsel on curriculum development, advanced analytics practices, research and consulting activity, along with student activities and placement. The center is comprised of a diverse set of individuals interested in analytics and we have a wide range of executives and industry leaders across a variety of firms and industries that consult directly with our faculty.

Additionally, the Center for Business Analytics frequently hosts seminars, workshops, roundtable discussions and presentations throughout the year. MSA students are invited to attend all of the events and a number of these are also available on our website in the form of videos or other presentation materials.

When speaking with potential applicants, we’re often asked about career services. Please be aware that the Villanova School of Business Graduate Programs Office is committed to providing students with tools and resources to be successful in their current role, as well as those looking to transition.

The following career and professional development services are readily available to all students, both campus and online. Lead by a dedicated staff who exclusively works with only our graduate population, we also have a variety of resources in the form of alumni, corporate contacts and industry professionals at our disposal to meet our students’ needs.

Moving on to the admissions requirements for the MSA, they’re fairly straightforward. First, you will need to start your online application, which can be found on the Villanova website, or provided by your enrollment advisor. You will need to submit a copy of your resume. Two essays, topics are provided in the application link. Official transcripts from every university or college where you completed nine credit hours or more and two professional letters of recommendation. The GRE or GMAT is not required for admission, but is recommended as an opportunity to strengthen your application.

Additionally, in order to be eligible for admission to the MSA program, you will need to have completed an undergraduate or graduate level statistics course with a grade of B or better. If you have not completed the statistics course, your advisor can provide you with a couple of approved online course options which can be completed before the semester begins.

Students who have completed degrees outside of the United States will need to provide a course by course transcript evaluation from either WES, which is the World Education Services, or ECE, Educational Credential Evaluators, and an interview may be requested. TOEFL exam results will be requested for students that have not been in the United States for longer than two years.

Now some helpful tips when working through the application process, well it helps to make a checklist so you can complete each part step-by-step. After you have created your online profile, you can save your progress as you finish each section and submit when you have everything completed. The next step would be to begin the financial aid process if you are planning to file for federal assistance. Once all the pieces of the application, including your essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, resume and test schools have been uploaded, you will be prompted to pay the $65 application fee. This will complete the submission process.

Take note, important dates to keep in mind, our spring session begins January 17 and the formal deadline to have all of your application documents submitted for consideration is November 15. By beginning your application as soon as possible, there would be plenty of time to have your application completed and reviewed by our admissions team. Due to the high volume of applications we encourage you to apply early. This now ends our presentation this evening. Once again, thank you so much for your time and interest.

Beth Emperor: At this time I would now like to open the floor to any questions from our participants. While you’re typing your questions in the question and answer box, I do want to remind everyone again that a copy of tonight’s webinar will be emailed to you and in addition, everyone who attended tonight’s presentation will also be receiving a follow up email with an admissions fee waiver code. Please note that this code is only valid for students submitting an application for the spring, 2017 semester. So our first question is for Dr. Mahar. Dr. Mahar, we have a student asking what are the most common career paths for graduates of the MSA program?

Stephen Mahar: Hi everyone, thanks for showing up tonight. Yeah, we had our first cohort of MSA students graduate in spring 2016. And actually have a list of some of their current titles right now. So, they’re a number of analyst positions, business analyst, business system analyst. We have senior financial analyst. Couple of people went into consulting. We have data analyst and then we have a chief analytics officer, a BI developer, director of business intelligence, network senior consultant. And then let’s see a VP of global insight. Someone’s a principal and then, yeah chief analytics officer and senior demand planner. So those, I think gives a sample, which is a pretty fair representation of the jobs that our MSA graduates are working in.

Beth Emperor: Okay Dr. Mahar, another question for you. Will the various languages mentioned such as R, SQL, etc., will these be taught during the program or are they assumed to be known by the attendee?

Stephen Mahar: Yeah, so they would be taught during the program. So, as far as prerequisites for the program, the only prerequisite is either a graduate or undergraduate course in statistics. And then any programming skills that you need along the way you’ll develop within the program. And as far as the different software that they’re currently using in the different courses. So, let’s see in the intro class, it’s kind of basically revolves around Excel and then a lot of different Excel add-ins for data mining, simulation and optimization. And the data models course, you go into a lot of depth with learning SQL. The multi-variant course, you’re going into a good amount of depth with our enterprise data management. Really the big focus there is Hadoop. I think you may do a little bit of power BI. The business intelligence course is using clickview crystal reports. And there may be some tableau there as well, as well as maybe in the intro.

Fast Jump Pro for data mining, rapid minor is what’s being used for the text and web mining course right now. And then the optimization course is using C Plex industrial strength optimization package. The advanced simulation course is using arena. And then yeah really within the practicum and the advanced business applications course, you’re probably using a variety of those different skillsets that you’ve picked up throughout the first courses in the program.

Beth Emperor: Okay and as a follow up to that question, Dr. Mahar, as well, what software should the applicants be familiar with prior to starting the MSA program?

Stephen Mahar: So great question, but coming in, we are assuming no familiarity with these different software packages.  So, you’re gonna pick all of this up as you move through the program. And it’s been designed in such a way – so the program was actually designed probably four or five years ago, the development started – we have a Center for Business Analytics here and our advisory board members helped us try to figure out what does someone – and there are organizations who is kind of the star person in analytics, what skillset does this person need? And that’s how we kind of structured the courses.

The first semester you’re taking those foundation courses and the intro to analytics, the data models course which is kind of a lot of SQL and then the multi-variant course with R. And then you’re using that foundation skillset as you move into your upper level courses. So, you build them up, those foundation skills right away and then we leverage them throughout the remainder of the program.

Beth Emperor: Okay, and will the software need to be purchased by the student or will this be provided by the school?

Stephen Mahar: The software – so, while you’re a student you’ll have access to any software you use within the courses. So, that will be provided to you. The versions of the software, for the most part, the software, you’re gonna have access to it through your entire time as a student. But then after you graduate, then you won’t have access to a lot of the software. We have a lot of arrangements with different software vendors that give you access to the programs while you’re here as a student, but then after you graduate, your company would need to purchase some of these. But then some of the software packages we’re using are also open source, like R and rapid minor.

Beth Emperor: Okay, our next question, is there a particular statistics course type? We have a student who has an undergraduate degree in sociology and that student took a behavior statistics which was required.

Stephen Mahar: My guess is that it would probably satisfy the prerequisite. I would just – probably if you send over the syllabus for the course or course description. Really if it’s covered – if you understand what P values are and confidence intervals are, you have some idea of different distributions and maybe ran a little regression, then it’s probably gonna be sufficient.

Beth Emperor: Okay this question is for Claire. Will I need to extend a length of time, for example more than 20 months suggested, to finish the coursework? Are all the classes offered every semester? And if not, how do I learn when each class is offered so I can build or understand her plan to be completed?

Claire Bruno: That’s a great question. If you stay on carousel, which is if you follow the prescribed course progression, you will be able to finish in the 21 months. However, we do have some students who fall off carousel due to a variety of reasons and it just depends at that point which classes – how many classes you’re taking and which ones are offered.

So, again if you follow the prescribed progression, all the classes that you will need will be offered in the sequence that you need them and so you will be completing the program within 21 months. It’s only if you fall off carousel that you would have to work with your students advisor who you’ll be connected with once you enter the program who will help you sort of navigate the progression if you were to not follow the courses that we’ve prescribed.

Beth Emperor: Okay, our next question is for Dr. Mahar. Is this degree suited for recent graduates with a good amount of course experience in business analytics?

Stephen Mahar: Yes, I think it definitely would be. So, I’m part of the admissions committee and a lot of what we’re looking for is passion within this area of analytics and also technical aptitude. So, it’s important for some of this coursework to have some decent technical aptitude and so we try to assess that throughout the admissions process. But again, like I mentioned before, students are gonna gain a lot of these skillsets throughout the program. And the only real prerequisite here, other than that technical aptitude is that undergrad or graduate statistics course.

Beth Emperor: Okay and is the focus learning the programming tools or on developing analytic skills?

Stephen Mahar: Great question. Yep, so throughout the program you’re gonna learn a variety of different analytics techniques. But what you do learn won’t be software dependent. And yeah, everyone – I’m sure everyone here knows that what constitutes the most appropriate software is always evolving. So, our goal and my goal in these courses is to teach you different techniques you can apply using a variety of different software packages. And so yeah that said, we incorporate software from a variety of different vendors. So, like I said SQL, R, SAS, Jump. You’re gonna learn some of these packages, but again the packages over time can change. We want you to learn what’s going on behind the scenes, what the technique is. And then once you know the technique, you can use a number of different software packages to run that same technique.

Beth Emperor: And how much math knowledge would be assumed to already know or to be gained while going through the program for use with some of the algorithms?

Stephen Mahar: Good question. So, there’s kind of the spectrum in analytics. So, it goes from business analytics on one side and then I would say hard core data science on the other where the data science programs tend to be taught out of the computer science department, which may be more focused on the development of the algorithm. Whereas this particular program is more focused on the application. So, you have – we’re going to go into different ways to tweak your neural net to try to come up to enhance the predictions. But at the end of the day, I’m not creating the neural net from scratch with code. I’m using rapid minor or SAS jump software and then within that software I’m tweaking parameters using some knowledge of how the underlying neural net works to try to improve my prediction.

So the stat background, having some quantitative coursework or quantitative aptitude is very important to be successful in some of these courses. But at the same time, we’re not expecting people coming in to all have math majors or engineering majors. So, again the only prerequisite for the program is the undergraduate or graduate stat course and then we’re gonna build up all of the quantitative and technical skills you need throughout your time in the program.

Beth Emperor: Our next question is for Darlene. If I complete my application before the November 15 deadline, would I receive an answer on admissions sooner?

Darlene Lakes: Oh great. Well, if you finish your application you should expect an answer within 2-4 weeks of submission.

Beth Emperor: Okay and as a follow up question, what is the cost per credit hour?

Darlene Lakes: The cost per credit hour is $1,185. The total cost of the program is $39,105.

Beth Emperor: And also, how many hours per week would the average person need to invest in the coursework and homework?

Darlene Lakes: I’d say it depends on the person’s experience. If you were really knowledgeable with some of the content, it may take you a little less time than someone who’s just new to a particular topic, may take them a little extra time. So, I usually recommend to students that you have somewhere between 10-20 hours, depending on your skillset.

Beth Emperor: Dr. Mahar, will students have a stronger chance of admittance if they already hold a business analyst position?

Stephen Mahar: That would definitely help. And I think what we’re trying to do when we’re evaluating whether the student’s gonna be successful in this program is we look at the application as a whole. So, what has the student done since graduation, what did they do in their current position? What are their undergraduate or graduate grades like? What type of courses have they taken? And again, we’re trying to get at this idea of technical aptitude. We want people to come into the program to be successful.

Beth Emperor: Claire, in terms of the classes are they held weekly or will the student log on any time during the week to view the material?

Claire Bruno: I think Darlene touched this a little bit, the classes are asynchronous. And they are recorded as well. There is a synchronous session. I believe it’s once a week that you’re encouraged to attend if you can, but again this program is really meant for you to be – for it to be flexible for you and to really fit into your schedule.

I mean one of the things that I think differentiates VSB is that we are focused and our land is really on the working professional. And so when we design a program, when we’re looking at course structure and times, you understand that nothing else is gonna stop in your life. You’re still going to have your professional obligations, your personal obligations. You’re just now adding another element into it which is academic. And so we try to make the coursework as accessible as possible so you can fit it in when it’s convenient for you and just to talk a little bit about what Dr. Mahar was saying for the previous question, what we wanna do is for every student to be successful when they come into the program.

And part of our obligation as an admissions team is to make sure that you’re academically fit for the program because this is a very rigorous program and we pride ourselves on the fact that our online and our on ground evaluation techniques are the same. And so that way you can come away solid in the knowledge that you are going to be taking with you a degree that is rigorous, a degree that is practical and a degree that you can apply to your future career goals.

Beth Emperor: Dr. Mahar, could you tell us which course or courses cover predictive and prescriptive analytics and also machine learning?

Stephen Mahar: Sure. Let’s see so you’re going to get some predictive and prescriptive modeling in the intro to business analytics course. We do a little bit with classification trees there. The data mining course covers some different ensemble methods, covers the neural nets, some cart. As far as – so machine learning or construction of algorithms that can learn from data, we cover the most accepted methodologies for analyzing data. And so some of the topics under the heading of machine learning will be covered in the data mining courses, particularly the methods like neural networks, more supervised learning. We do some clustering and recommendation systems, more unsupervised learning.

And when you get to the advanced business applications course, we actually have someone who teaches a couple weeks in that course who goes into some more depth of different machine learning type algorithms. We don’t have a one course entirely focused on machine learning though.

Beth Emperor: Mr. Mahar, could you tell us what the difference is between the MSA program and data science?

Stephen Mahar: Sure, sure. And that’s kind of – I guess data science programs aren’t specifically targeted towards business and many of these are out of computer science or engineering schools and they tend to be heavier in IS and stats. So again like I was talking about this continuum. On one of the continuum, I see that hardcore data science. And then our program tends to cover a broader base of analytics topics and techniques. And being housed in the business school, we’re more concerned with the application of these techniques in these areas like data management, data mining and decision modeling techniques, with a goal of improving business decisionmaking, as opposed to just algorithm development.

Beth Emperor: Okay and beyond the coursework and the student’s transcript and their resume, what else could a student do to prove their technical aptitude?

Stephen Mahar: Well, definitely I know there are a lot of online certificates that people could be working toward. Just even in the essays, stressing some of the things you’re doing with analytics as a hobby or some of the interesting problem solving. How you’re interested in problem solving in these particular areas. And I know there are a lot of free online open university courses that touch on some of these techniques. And just seeing the people are engaged with some of that I think would help bolster the application as well as – there’s always the GMAT or GRE. And maybe your undergraduate degree was focused on maybe some softer skills. And having a good quantitative score on the GMAT or GRE would do a lot to bolster your application, just to show that you do have that technical or quantitative aptitude.

Beth Emperor: Could you also talk to the platforms that are used for instruction, for example blackboard or other platforms? And will the tool such as SAS be accessible via an online platform or will these be downloaded onto a laptop or another form with licensing expiring when no one is longer a student?

Stephen Mahar: Sure. So, I teach the intro to business analytics course. So, the first course you would start with in the program. And fall semester course and I think next semester it’s probably gonna be every Thursday night at maybe 7-8pm, I’ll have my synchronous chat session. And what we’re doing right now isn’t entirely representative of what you would see in these synchronous chat sessions.

So, our platform that we’re using right now is Adobe Connect. So, the asynchronous content, it’s all in blackboard. But then the synchronous is within Adobe Connect. And so during the chat sessions, I fire up my webcam, I turn on my mic. A lot of the students have their webcams on or have their mics on and then I project what I’m seeing on my screen in the middle of the screen. So, you’re watching what I’m doing and I’m talking you through it as I’m doing it in the middle. And then we have this interaction, kind of the feedback. So, I think of this as – in some ways it’s an open office hours where I’m working you through additional practice problems. In some ways I look at the asynchronous stuff that you’re watching these videos on your own, and then I bring you through kind of extensions of these problems in the synchronous sessions.

So in my mind, I think the synchronous sessions are great. It helps us form some type of community and it helps all of the students within the program bond a little more and network together. That said, yeah they’re strongly encouraged, but you’re not required to attend these things in real time. You don’t have to attend them live. All of these sessions are archived for future viewing. So, if you have – we know everyone is juggling life right? Ya’ll have work, you have your day job, you have your family and then you have school. And so if something else comes up one week and you can’t make it, that’s fine. You just watch the synchronous chat session on your own schedule, whatever time works for you.

And then the faculty who are involved in the program, we’re all very flexible. I’m pretty much online almost all day and so I actually – yeah I have my email open right now and if I have students who email me, I’m responding to them throughout the day right up until the time I go to bed. And when I wake up in the morning – I was actually on a Skype call today with one of our students and then a couple of phone calls. So, we all know that a big part of this is the flexibility to the students, and so we try to make it as flexible as possible.

Beth Emperor: Okay, and does the program include how to apply analytics in specific industries, such as investment management?

Stephen Mahar: Good question. Let me – I actually left off a little bit of the last question. As far as the software, I know the SAS Jump software, students are installing it locally and I think most of the programs that we use in the program you install locally on your laptop. Most of t
e programs though we need to give you new licenses every year and so you continue to get a new license file every year for these different software packages for the most part until after you graduate and then you don’t get the new license files after that point.

As far as covering different business areas really all of the courses in the program you’re gonna touch on applications in finance operations marketing. Really we have people from all these different areas who are teaching in this program. This program is very application based. And so we want you to come out of your chat this week or your learning module of the week and be able to apply the skills you’re learning immediately back at your company.

Yeah I know we have someone who’s involved with doing the sports analytics for professional soccer teams. He teaches in the program. We have someone – a prolific researcher in finance who teaches some things with text mining and financial analytics and how to do some text mining of some of the different reports that companies give off. And so I think you’re gonna see applications throughout all areas of business and that’s definitely one thing that’s nice about having this housed in the business school.

Beth Emperor: Okay we’re gonna take a few more questions. Our next question is for Darlene. And Darlene if you could talk to us about some of the sources of financial aid that might be available to students in the program?

Darlene Lakes: Sure. Financial aid is pretty much you’re looking at predominantly loans. However the resource is available. If you have some specific questions I’d recommend taking a look at the resource on center on the left hand side of the screen. You’ll see there a financial aid FAQ PDF. I think that might be really helpful if you have specific questions.

Beth Emperor: Thank you –

Claire Bruno: This is Claire. There’s also a webinar that you can find on a web resources page on the Villanova School of Business site. So there’s a specific webinar that deals directly with the online financial aid process. You can find that on our site as well.

Beth Emperor: Thank you. Our next question is for Dr. Mahar. Would this program be beneficial for someone in the logistics field?

Stephen Mahar: I definitely think it would. With so much of logistics – so my background is undergraduate I was in mechanical engineering and mathematics. And then got my MBA stuck around got a Ph.D. and I actually have a double major with Ph.D. operations management and decision sciences which has evolved into analytics. And so applications within logistics or supply chain management it’s just many many applications. As far as the modeling of supply chains there’s optimization there’s discreet event simulation to try to better model supply chains.

And then there’s just the general process improvement. A lot of ways companies are using data mining right now to improve their quality as well. So yeah logistics operations a big application area for this. But again it’s not the only one. I could say the same thing about finance and how much financial data is out there and all of a sudden being able to leverage that to improve predictions of what you think a stock price is gonna do or company performance. And a number of different areas. We’re actually starting to go down and starting to collaborate with people in the accounting area right now to use some of these analytic skill sets for improving audits. And so yeah a lot of applications but logistics is a pretty popular one.

Beth Emperor: And for our final question for the evening Dr. Mahar can the society of actuaries VEE applied statistics exam be accepted for the statistics requirement?

Stephen Mahar: We haven’t had that one before but I will say yes to that one. Yeah if you have gone through that then – I’ve seen that exam and you have the prerequisite stat knowledge.

Beth Emperor: So on behalf of Dr. Mahar Claire Darlene and myself we would like to thank all of you for joining us this evening. Again a copy of tonight’s webinar will be emailed to you and you will also receive a follow up email with an application fee waiver code. Please also contact your enrollment advisor for any questions that were not answered. We know there were a lot of great questions out there so please contact your enrollment advisor as I said to ensure that you have all the information that you need. Again as a reminder there are the resources the PDF files and also what Claire mentioned as well. And so at this point again we wanna thank all of you and we hope you have a great evening.

Stephen Mahar: Have a great evening everyone. Thanks for attending tonight.

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