By John Brescia
The analytics program at UNH is enjoying a successful first year as a new course of study. One of the three programs approved last year, the UNH Durham analytics program offers both a master’s degree and a graduate certificate in analytics. UNH Manchester has introduced a Bachelor of Science program for the major, as well. The Durham department is currently located just off of Main Street, next door to Papa John’s pizza, in a stylish, professional office. What is analytics, one might ask.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, the subject is defined as the field of data analysis, studying trends, effects and performances, with the goal of improving the subject by gaining knowledge that can be used to make improvements or changes.
According to Professor Robert McGrath, the director of the program, analytics is a combination of computer science, math, and statistics, which requires many different skill sets.
“It is unlike any master’s program here at UNH,” said McGrath. “There’s a whole different model on how you teach; its structure is different and it’s a new model for how we educate.”
The students’ learning is certainly hands-on: they take an active role in their studies, working with actual organizations on real projects, such as Google and Ford. According to McGrath, the analytics program could be seen as a year-long job training period. One group of students is even working with the university itself, analyzing the volume of student happiness and success to determine how to optimize student experience at UNH to produce the most successful, well-rounded, and happy student.
The Durham program includes nineteen students, four doing the certificate and 15 completing their masters. The number is expected to increase next year, with applications to the program nearly filling the maximum class size.
When asked why he enrolled in the program, student Derek Naminda said, “Analytics was the missing component to my marketing background. The models and programming languages that we have been exposed to are a revelation to me.”
Analytics can certainly be applied to a variety of fields, like business or healthcare, and in many different studies, such as deciding what is the best traffic pattern for a city, measuring the water speed under bridges to monitor erosion, or determining the optimal process for making ice cream.
“Analytics is the use of data to make better decisions,” said McGrath.
For example, if you go to Home Depot and you have their app on your phone, the sensors in the store will pick up the aisles you walked down and how long you spent at any one place in the store. Using analytics, the company can then customize the information they send you to suit your needs.
The need for analytics will only grow; 95 percent of the data in the world today was produced in the last year, and that amount is only growing. Phones and other electronic devices are now putting out more data than people do. Due to the tremendous data output, organizations must decide what to do with it, with less than 5 percent of all data being used. For someone with an analytics degree, the possibilities are as endless as the data. “You can go anywhere with this degree,” McGrath said. “Any question you ask, you can find an analytic answer to.”