Running the Numbers on Applied Analytics

Q&A with Robert Keller, PhD, Director of Applied Analytics

  • What is applied analytics and why is it important to employers?

Data abounds in the global, interconnected world we live in.  In simple terms, the applied analytics program develops the ability to ask — and then answer — good questions. In particular, the program equips its graduates to leverage data to solve problems and discern actionable insights to develop appropriate strategy and inform decision-making in a broad range of positions within industry, business, community organizations, etc. The applied analytics program gives students a wealth of experience working with standard tools and applications needed for data collection, analysis and model-building, and communication.  

This program is just as relevant to persons working in nonprofits or services such as restaurants and small business as those wishing to advance in the financial sector, or in logistics/supply-chain, or healthcare. Indeed, competencies in collecting and analyzing data in a variety of forms, from structured data in spreadsheets to unstructured data sourced from social media gained in the applied analytics program, would be highly assistive to anyone writing a report summarizing the impacts from grant funding received or reacting strategically to regional dining trends.

  • How would earning this degree advance a student’s career trajectory and salary potential?

Graduates of the program stand out in their abilities to competently handle data and provide timely and insightful recommendations regarding both tactical operations as well as strategic initiatives. Those in C-suite level positions readily recognize the critical need for such employees, especially those who not only know how to answer, but also ask good questions.

  • What can students expect from this program?

The program is fully online, offering completion in one or two years with a fall start, or within fifteen months with a spring start. Courses meet synchronously in the evenings. Because students take at most two courses at a time, evening obligations are limited to twice weekly.

Financial aid is available through federal loans and some employers offer tuition reimbursement.

  • Can you share a specific example of a capstone project a student in this program has completed to show the practical application of the subject?

Last year’s capstone had students engaged in one of three projects: one exploring food insecurity in the greater Dubuque region, another analyzing student performance data for a school district, and another project for 7Hills Brewery that started with the basic question: “Nationally, there is some momentum to raise the minimum wage.  Using data from 7Hills, can we validate or refute the hypothesis that restaurants and similar business can adapt to this significant change?”

  • How does Loras’ applied analytics program provide personalized attention for students that larger schools cannot?

Loras’ program is truly applied in the sense that the program is built around “learning by doing.”  Students learn to handle data, well, by working with data through project-oriented learning, building conceptual understanding as well as critical technical skills and proficiency as they do so.  Applied analytics sources many of its projects from community partners — actual data from organizations and businesses in the region — and students in the program are motivated not only by the authenticity of the projects but also because students see real value in improving the world in which we live.