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New Business Analytics master’s degree offers cutting-edge methods to solve business problems

Enrollment in Sacramento State’s Master of Science in Business Analytics has doubled since its first year from 30 to 60 students, said Min Li, professor and Center for Business Analytics director. (Photo courtesy of Min Li)
Sac State Master of Science in Business Analytics student Nina Le-Tse attends class virtually, looking on at a computer screen during the live course.
Sac State Master of Science in Business Analytics student Nina Le-Tse, a mother of two who works full time, said the fully-online program allows her to attend class without having to commute to Sacramento from her home in Elk Grove. (Photo courtesy of Nina Le-Tse)

Students in a new College of Business master’s program could soon influence everything from restaurant choice to who employers hire and fire — and some already are.

Sacramento State’s Master of Science in Business Analytics launched in the fall of 2021 as a completely online program that trains students to mine and analyze huge quantities of data to drive business decisions.

“Decisions based on business analytics are being made every day,” MSBA student Marissa Torres said. “It’s a more data-driven workplace. There’s so much more data being collected that we didn’t used to have.

“We’re able to utilize that data with all these new tools. … The methods we use are going to be very important.”

Many of the top business schools in the country have added MSBA degrees, including UC Davis, UC San Diego, and the University of Southern California, and enrollment in Sac State’s program is growing, said Center for Business Analytics Director Min Li.

“What’s unique about Sac State is we actually have an undergraduate concentration in Business Analytics, too,” Li said. “It’s kind of rare.

“The curriculum we follow for our undergrad concentration and the MSBA is cutting edge.”

Students learn data mining methods and how to apply them to business problems.

“Data can be numbers or it can be text or pictures,” Li said. “We are training computers to understand the data.

“There are so many comments and reviews on Yelp or Tripadvisor there’s no way for somebody working for the company to review all of them. We’re mining the text for what people are saying about a restaurant, or a new product or service.”

Enrollment in Sac State’s MSBA program has doubled since its first year from 30 to 60 students, according to Li. The two-year degree consists of 30 units, with students taking two synchronous evening courses – that is, courses livestreamed online – every semester.

Li said the master’s program was always intended to be 100% online.

“Since we were completely online, we were not affected by COVID, so it started last fall and it was the perfect time to launch,” Li said. “We were thinking we’d attract folks from across the state and across the country.”

Although most students are from the Sacramento region, roughly 30% are from the Bay Area, according to Li.

A majority of the MSBA students already have full-time jobs, including Nina Le-Tse.

The Elk Grove mother is a manager in compensation and data analytics for Biddle Consulting Group, Inc., which specializes in Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan consulting and training services.

“We analyze thousands of records and use tools to review that data to put together a report and walk clients through on areas they need to focus on to enhance their business practices,” Le-Tse said.

“We help them ensure that their hiring, promotion, compensation and termination procedures and decisions are really based on job-related factors, not based on gender or race.”

Le-Tse, a Sac State alumna, enrolled in the graduate program to learn different ways to mine data as well as how to present the information in a way her clients will understand.

“I also wanted to get my master's degree at the same time,” she said.

But with a demanding, full-time job, the mother of two young children didn’t see commuting to Sacramento twice a week as realistic.

Sac State’s MSBA program was the first she saw that offered a 100%-online synchronous program.

Torres, an analyst for the California Department of General Services, dealt with analytics when she oversaw the redesign of the real estate services division’s website.

“I was looking to expand my skill set, and I had a really strong interest in doing something tech-related, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” Torres said.

Sac State’s MSBA program fit her interests perfectly.

“I’ve learned so much,” Torres said. “I didn’t realize there was so much you could do with business analytics, and I have a lot more opportunity to further my career path in that direction.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but it really helps you to think more critically and that’s what you need when you’re working in data analytics.”

Recent Sac State graduate Karissa Hoffman enrolled in the program to broaden her job prospects in sports administration.

“In every athletic department there’s a bunch of independent subsections that all have to work together, and each has its own budget, its own employees. … I felt the MSBA program would be beneficial to showcase all the different aspects behind the scenes.

“In professional sports, business analytics can provide job opportunities for scouts looking at incoming recruits, or it could be used to look at peak ticket sales,” Hoffman said. “It touches every aspect of sports both on the field and off the field.”

Applications for the Spring 2023 MSBA program are now open on the program’s website.

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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