The BI&A Program – Vision and Architecture

The BI&A program develops graduates with strong professional and technical skills that complement the knowledge gained in our 12-course MS curriculum. The following program architecture realizes this vision.                               

Professional Skills

An effective business analyst understands business and is an effective communicator.  The BI&A program develops these skills through a strong learning culture nurtured by extra-curricular activities such as industry-supported job-skills workshops, oral and written communications skills seminars, talks by industry professionals, and an active student club. Oral and written communication skills and the ability to work in teams are explicitly cultivated and assessed throughout the curriculum.  Students are required to take an online ethics quiz and ethical and privacy issues are discussed in most courses in the program.

Small Talks about Big Data. This series of talks by leading industry professionals and academics introduces students to both industry applications and research in the area of data analytics and Big Data. These talks are given between 5 pm and 6 pm before the beginning of evening class so that both part-time and full-time students can attend.  Refreshments are served to promote a convivial learning atmosphere.  

Disciplinary Knowledge

The center piece of the BI&A program is a rigorous 12-course curriculum that emphasizes both theory and practice and that culminates in and industry practicum course in which students work on real applications with industry mentors in a student’s area of interest.  The curriculum was described in section 1 above.

Technical Skills

Strong software skills are needed to manipulate, analyze and mine “big data.” To help students develop these skills, the BI&A program offers a series of free “software bootcamps” that provide training in software packages such as SQL, R, SAS, Python and Hadoop. These bootcamps are offered on 3-day weekends (Friday pm, all day Saturday and Sunday) in the fall and spring semesters.  With the skills acquired in the workshops, students are better prepared for their class work. 

All BI&A students are required to attend the communications and jobs skills workshops and software bootcamps. Collectively, these free extra-curricula activities provide the equivalent of two semester-long courses (about 70 contact hours) of additional instruction.    

“Big Data” Infrastructure

Stevens’ Hanlon Center for Financial Services provides a robust infrastructure consisting of software packages such as SAS , R, Python and Hadoop together with a number of large data sets that support research and industry-strength educational exercises.  A number of BI&A courses (BIA 656, BIA 658 and BIA 660) are conducted in this lab. Importantly, when the lab is not being used as a classroom, it is available for student use when working on their homework exercises, course projects and research.