Although the film Moneyball (2011) made data analytics synonymous with baseball, Immaculata junior John McArthur didn’t realize just how integral it would be to his college basketball career. He explains that during games, Immaculata uses a company that tracks and records the shots of all basketball players, including the type: midrange, three-pointer, or a step-back attempt. Finding the information useful, McArthur was surprised at the level of data being collected at the college level. However, with data invading every industry, it really should be no surprise.
“The way they record data is going to begin to transform into more advanced ways, and they are going to require people who are able to read this data and tell others what it really means,” predicts McArthur.
As an accounting major who is minoring in both computational sciences and data analytics, McArthur is positioning himself to be the person who can interpret all this data. With a propensity for math, he is interested in becoming an insurance actuary, which is a position that analyzes financial risk using mathematics, statistics and financial theories. He is focusing on actuaries’ work within the insurance industry where he can help insurance companies determine low-risk versus high-risk clients.
With data analytics evolving as a field, M.E. Jones, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and computing, who oversees IU’s data analytics program, believes that offering data analytics in conjunction with a major area of study will offer Immaculata’s students a distinctive and competitive advantage over students without this minor.
Jones elaborates, “Consider a political science major who can understand data analytics in the context of the election process…there is great potential for this minor,” she emphasizes. “It’s extremely useful not only in political science but also to combat the real threat of terrorism, applying data analytics strategies.” She adds that QVC, and the fashion industry as a whole, also highly values employees who understand the business and can work with data.
Several Immaculata fashion merchandising majors have discovered how attractive a minor in data analytics can be to potential employers. Skylar Volz ’22 is one of them.
“You’re like a translator,” she said, referring to the role of data analytics. With aspirations of becoming a buyer, focusing on the field of trends forecasting, Volz recognizes how important data is to the fashion industry. Besides understanding an employer’s brand identity, Volz is learning that fashion professionals use lots of data to determine future trends, what to buy and how to make a profit.
In 2012, the New York Times published an article by Steve Lohr, “The Age of Big Data.” At the time, Lohr commented, “The march of quantification, made possible by enormous new sources of data, will sweep through academia, business and government. There is no area that is going to be untouched.” His words have become reality.
With new opportunities to fill a business need, Jones created and developed courses for both Immaculata’s major and minor in data analytics. She allows students to explore various industries. For example, students have attended several Phillies #CollegeSeries Baseball Analytics Night where participants go behind the scenes with baseball analytics executives and network with professionals at Citizens Bank Park before a game. Jones wants students to grasp how important data analytics is to other industries, such as health care informatics and bioinformatics for science majors. Even history majors utilize analytics when collecting, analyzing, cataloging and archiving artifacts.
McArthur notes that the experience in data building that he has gained in his classes help him to present data graphically, which is an asset employers are looking for: it’s one thing to analyze data but it is equally important to be able to present the results coherently. Volz explains that last semester she took courses in Retail Math and Storytelling with Data. The combination of the two different perspectives is what she feels will differentiate her from other candidates when she is interviewing for jobs.
Although McArthur predicts that data analytics will become more advanced in unexpected ways, he and the other students who are positioning themselves to be the future leaders in the new data age will have the advantage of knowing how to read, collect, analyze and present Big Data.