Consortium of Wichita State degrees to meet business and organization information needs

What began as a conversation between three deans over breakfast has become the realization of three graduate degrees in data analytics and data sciences, with an addition of an undergraduate degree in applied linguistics.

The master of science degrees, offered through the Barton School of Business, College of Engineering, and Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will equip graduates with assisting businesses and agencies in organizing and analyzing large data sets. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the degrees at its meeting on Dec. 16.

“There is global demand for expertise in ‘big data,’” Andrew Hippisley, dean of Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “Access to very large data sets and the ability to computationally extract meaningful data is revolutionizing decision making and strategic planning across a wide range of domains: business, industry, government and education. Wichita itself has burgeoning demand in all of these domains.”

The consortium of analytics and data science degrees emphasizes three sub-areas of expertise:

  • mathematical foundations of data analysis, with emphasis on knowledge of the areas of mathematics and statistics that are foundational to algorithms and predictive models;
  • business analytics, with an emphasis on organizational decision making and predictive modeling; and
  • data science, with emphasis on algorithm building and parsing, and computer application.

Although students will focus on and develop expertise in one of these areas, they will also have exposure to the other two by taking courses in each emphasis. All three programs share foundational coursework in business analytics, as well as other electives offered among the three colleges. This breadth will help graduates understand other approaches to examining, interpreting and using data.

“This is an educational opportunity in data analytics that will allow students from different backgrounds to grasp multiple perspectives on big data,” said Hippisley, “providing flexibility to find the path that best fits their professional goals.” 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the growth of operational research analysts and statisticians as 27.4% and 33.8%, respectively, from 2016 to 2026. BLS data also show Wichita as one of the metropolitan areas with high demand for these kinds of jobs. A report by IBM   predicted demand for data professionals would soar to 28% in 2020, which translates to an increase of 364,000 openings to 2,720,000.

“The growth expectations in data science jobs is staggering,” Dennis Livesay, dean of engineering, said. “Data science is routinely listed in the top three fastest growing jobs, very often in the top spot.”

Additionally, the Barton School recently conducted a study to assess the demand for graduates with analytics background in Wichita. A consensus appeared about the need to introduce interdisciplinary courses in computer science and mathematics. When asked which department businesses would need to hire analytics expertise in, the highest rated response was operations at 91%.

In a parallel development, KBOR has also approved a bachelor of arts in applied linguistics, a program of study that highlights the interface between computing, artificial intelligence, big data and language. Human-computer interaction is a key component of the digital revolution, requiring a special set of skills based on an understanding of both human behavior and computation that allow for the development and commercialization of Alexa and Google Home, which have become household names.

“The bachelor’s in applied linguistics addresses the need for these kind of skills,” Hippisley said, “and is an extension of the graduate data analytics and data science degrees into the realm of humanities.”

Students may begin work in these degree programs this fall.