Applied Business Analytics Celebrates 5 Years of Unmistakable Growth and Success
On Friday, April 21, the Metropolitan College Department of Administrative Sciences community gathered at Agganis Arena to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the launch of Master of Science in Applied Business Analytics, which has now helped professionals transition into data-driven roles as business analysts, data scientists, or consultants for half a decade.
With a host of alumni, faculty, instructors, administrators, and students assembled, the evening honored the innovation and success of the program, which at the milestone of its fifth year has graduated more than a thousand students and currently boasts an enrollment of 650, fast becoming one of the most respected business analytics programs in the nation after being introduced as the first analytics-focused graduate program at Boston University.
It has been an auspicious period of growth for the once-nascent program, which had 136 students in its first year and now boasts the department’s largest enrollment.
As Associate Dean Lou Chitkushev described in an address, the seeds of the MSABA program were planted more than 10 years ago, when as a proud incubator of new ideas the MET Department of Computer Sciences began to explore the viability of an analytics program. Initial talks began in 2012 and an approach was soon identified—this program would lean into the strength of BU MET’s management program faculty’s areas of expertise, as well as the College’s forte in interdisciplinary academic approaches.
“If you look at it, by getting a degree in analytics, you basically take courses from supply chain management, from finance, from all the other areas of innovation, [like] project management,” Chitkushev said. “So, it’s not a separate program, but [rather] integrated within the other academic programs of Metropolitan College. This is extremely important and rare. And I think that makes a very big difference, because this is applied business analytics—the application part is so clear.”
Dr. Chitkushev explained that from early on there was little doubt who would be the program’s point person: Associate Professor of the Practice Vladimir Zlatev, whose critical role in the degree’s development led him to today serve as its program coordinator. It’s a testament, Dr. Chitkushev said, to Dr. Zlatev’s capacity to engender collaboration.
“Vladi has this unique ability to convince people to help the program, regardless of whether they’re other faculty from other programs, to develop a course in analytics, or from the administrative units of Metropolitan College—we see this across the board,” he said.
It’s a point Department of Administrative Sciences Chair Irena Vodenska agreed with whole-heartedly. “It takes a visionary and an idea. And we all know our visionary for the ABA program—Professor Zlatev,” she told the audience from the podium.
Owing to his career experience as an industrial engineer, in corporate management, and in marketing analysis, Professor Zlatev brought unique perspective to imagining and maturing the program. In addition to helping develop the 10-course curriculum, Zlatev also made the critical decision to incorporate preparatory labs, which allows students to set their foundation by getting familiar with new concepts—giving them a head-start on figuring out where they’d like to put their focus within the field.
“It is very innovative to know what students need entering the program,” Vodenska explained, adding that those early lessons allow them to determine what cutting-edge areas they might specialize in—such as marketing analytics, enterprise risk analytics, web analytics for business, data mining for business. “Some of these are really newly developed courses in the curriculum,” she said.
When it was his turn to speak, Professor Zlatev trained his focus on the achievements of his student-researchers, particularly the key research being done by faculty and students highlighted by the evening’s presentation of posters. Some posters assessed the competitive landscape of the field, others examined difficult-to-quantify employment variables like motivation.
He looked ahead at pending opportunities for students to champion their research to impact audiences and advance it to suit “what’s next” in the field. His teaching and research assistants, he explained, will soon be publishing their findings. And there’s a future to look ahead to, as well, particularly as large language model artificial intelligence brings disruption to all manner of field, including finance and education. While the matter is a cutting-edge one, the challenges it poses are ones that Professor Zlatev and his researchers are taking head-on.
“We have a very innovative approach. Students like to apply ChatGPT for a variety of applications—including homework!” Professor Zlatev said with a laugh. “But we are also preparing to challenge them with new ways to test them through assignments.”
Part of the evening’s festivities was a feting of the three winning teams of the Spring 2023 ABA@BU Hackathon, which gave students the opportunity to put the skills they’ve developed at BU MET to the test. Its review committee was comprised of ABA Master Lecturer Greg Page, ABA Assistant Professor Cansu Tayaksi, ABA Lecturer David Ritt, and ABA Adjunct Faculty Hanbo Yu.
In the Dataset Analysis and Modeling element of the competition, the winning team was “R2R,” or “Ready 2 Rage”—Jia Lyu, Xiang Ji, Jingyi Wu, Cheng Qian, and Yuanchen Xu—who were selected for their model which was built to assess the long-term viability of new hires, which they say brought out the creativity in data-crunching.
“Business Brainiacs” took home the top prize in the Business Case Analysis category, thanks to the efforts of its members, Zhicheng Qiu, Chia-Yun Tai, and Yating Wu, who were crowned victorious after, as they describe, conquering their initial hesitation about joining the competition.
Finally, the winner of the Technical Interview Simulation challenge was Hackrunner, AKA Keyao Pan, who reveled in the game’s opportunity to try something new—by learning more than just to code, but rather to truly problem-solve.
The gathering gave cause to reflect on the experiences of alumni from both the online and on-campus arms of the program. These former students looked back on their time studying at BU MET and offered informed advice on choosing electives and job hunting. There were also discussions of the rarified experience shared by some who are not only students at Boston University, but are also employees of the institution.
As refreshments were served, the evening’s proceedings also put focus on the presentation of directed research commissioned by the MSABA program intended to identify and enhance career support opportunities BU MET can offer its students. These “ABA Employability Service” endeavors saw students craft new services degree students and alumni can use in their real-world job hunt.
Anu Shinebayor, a MSPM student slated to graduate in the spring, developed a dashboard that helps users consider expansive career possibilities by refining searches by filtering interests, expertise, and employment preferences. Putranegara Riauwindu, who this spring will graduate with his MSABA, presented another dashboard—this one designed to identify opportunities in the current job market by company, industry, location, occupation, and skill. Jhanavi Shekar (MET’23), an MSABA alum, cultivated a tool that simulates the rigorous technical aptitude test many employers require of prospective hires through a process that provides preparation by proceeding from a problem being introduced to researched, answered, presented, and reviewed for feedback within a single day.
After its humble beginnings, Dr. Vodenska now describes the Applied Business Analytics as the Department of Administrative Science’s “flagship program.” She charted a course for the future of the program—one where it continues to innovate and expand in its reach to exponentially amplify the significant value of its alumni network, creating a growing number of professional opportunities for current, past, and future Metropolitan College Applied Business Analytics students.
“Needless to say, the [MSABA] program has been very impactful, it has attracted great students, [and] it created great alumni,” Dr. Vodenska said.