Interview with Nicolle Clements, Ph.D. - Academic Coordinator for the Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics (MSBIA) Program at Saint Joseph’s University

About Nicolle Clements, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolle Clements is a PhD statistician and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Decision System Sciences at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU), where she serves as the Academic Coordinator of the MSBIA program. Dr. Clements holds a doctorate in statistics from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, a Master of Science in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), and a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Millersville University. Her PhD research was in the area of high dimensional multiple testing procedures, and she has conducted applied work in spatial and environmental applications of analytics, multiplicative time-series modeling, and statistical analysis of substance abuse treatments.

In addition to coordinating the MSBIA program at SJU, Dr. Clements teaches a course in R statistical programming that she developed and an introductory data mining class. Much of her research has focused on adapting standard statistical models to be used in non-traditional applications. Recently, she collaborated with fellow SJU professor Dr. Virginia Miori on a project that combines operation research techniques with statistical multiple testing methods to find optimal regions with detected vegetation trend changes in East Africa. She is currently working on a grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to collect and analyze data in order to evaluate the PA Preferred brand. A full list of Dr. Clements’ scholarly publications can be found here: www.sju.edu.

Interview Questions

[OnlineEducation.com] Can you offer an overview of the online MSBIA program offered by Saint Joseph’s University in terms of its design and structure and from the perspective of the overall learning experience?

[Dr. Clements] The online Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics (MSBIA) at Saint Joseph’s University is a leading program of its kind. What I mean by that is, the MSBIA faculty are constantly reevaluating and updating the course material to better suit the needs of professionals in the BIA industry. Every semester, at least one of our MSBIA courses is getting redeveloped with cutting edge material and tools. Because of that, software that we use in the MSBIA program is never stagnant.

Every semester, at least one of our MSBIA courses is getting redeveloped with cutting edge material and tools. Because of that, software that we use in the MSBIA program is never stagnant.

Currently, the MSBIA program exposes students to the following software: JMP, VBA programming through Excel, Microsoft Access, Oracle SQL, Cloudera Hadoop, Extendsim, Google Web Analytics, Tableau, Qlik Sense, SAS Enterprise Miner, Python Programming, and R Programming languages. Students enrolled in the MSBIA program can expect to get hands on experience with the most current software tools in the BIA industry.

Logistically, our online courses are delivered in an eight-week layout. Each week, the materials are posted online in a variety of formats to meet students’ different learning needs (video demonstrations, PowerPoint slides, textbook readings, solved case studies, etc.). Also each week, the instructor hosts a live synchronous virtual session in the evening hours to accommodate working professionals. In this session, the instructor will review difficult material from the past week, demonstrate his/her experience in how the week’s material can be applied in industry, and allow for student Q&As. Students interact with one another through discussion boards and occasional group assignments.

[OnlineEducation.com] The MSBIA program provides training and instruction in business intelligence (BI) and analytics, as well as four tracks (general, data analysis, cyber analytics, and programming languages). What are the key differences between these tracks, and how does the curriculum integrate and separate BI and analytics coursework?

[Dr. Clements] Over the last decade, Saint Joseph’s University has experienced extraordinary growth in our online Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics program. This growth is a reflection of the need for companies to handle large amounts of data and vastly increased job opportunities in the field. The faculty members in the MSBIA program have adapted to these industry changes by adding new course electives to meet industry demands.

Because we now offer more than 16 courses in the MSBIA program and course selection can be daunting for students, we have organized our courses into four streams (called tracks). Each track consists of a set of courses that fit together nicely to provide students with a specialized skill set after graduation. These tracks are provided as guidelines to students on which courses they might want to take, but ultimately a student can decide on any ten MSBIA courses to complete the degree. Students can mix-and-match courses in different tracks, depending on the student’s experience and interest level. There are no differences in graduation requirements for the different tracks. To complete the MSBIA degree, students must successfully complete ten MSBIA courses and maintain a 3.0 GPA. There is no thesis or capstone course requirement.

The four tracks are grounded in the same set of “core” courses. The tracks themselves differ by no more than four courses. First, the traditional track prepares students to improve organization performance and gain competitive advantages in all functional areas of the business. Second, the cyber analytics track courses are designed to provide the student with skills to analyze complex systems and processes, uncover dependencies, weaknesses, risks, and identify corrective actions, both within the cyber domain and outside of it. Third, the data analytics track is designed to prepare students to apply statistics and data analytics techniques to large data sets to support data-driven decision making across any application domains. And fourth, the programming track gives students hands on experience with closed source and open source programming languages (including Python and R) to build effective and efficient programs to address all data repositories to ultimately improve decision making.

[OnlineEducation.com] For students who are unsure of whether an online program is right for them, what are some of the pros and cons of pursing a master’s in BI and analytics online? What type of academic, technical, and/or career support services does Saint Joseph’s and the Haub School provide to online students during the program?

[Dr. Clements] Pursing an online master’s degree in Business Intelligence and Analytics has many pluses, in addition to advanced job opportunities. One benefit of pursuing an online education is for the flexible scheduling. The MSBIA program is non-cohort dependent, meaning admission and enrollment is continuous, and every course is offered during every semester for students to take when suitable for them. Content for each course can be learned at a time that is most convenient to the student (nights, weekends, etc.) without needing to travel to the University campus location.

Another plus is that online MSBIA courses are taught from the same faculty members that teach on-campus MSBIA courses, so the quality of the degree is maintained. However, a successful student in the MSBIA online program must be a motivated self-learner. Students must prepare for class ahead of time by reading the textbook, practicing the techniques, and reviewing all videos and materials before the one hour weekly virtual session with the instructor.

Every SJU graduate student, including an online MSBIA student, has access to all networking opportunities, career support, and resources offered through our Career Development Center (https://sites.sju.edu/careers/). Online students also have access to all school services and technical support, which can be found here: https://www.sju.edu/information-for/current-students. Additionally, SJU graduates join an alumni network of more than 60,000 Hawks worldwide!

[OnlineEducation.com] What do you look for in applicants to MSBIA program, and what advice would you give to potential applicants about submitting a competitive application?

[Dr. Clements] Students from all majors and backgrounds can enter the program. While prior programming or professional experience in analytics can be helpful, it is absolutely not required. A competitive application would have some of the following characteristics: a strong GPA (3.2 or higher), strong GAMT/GRE score, significant work experience showing progression in career, or previous experience with analytics/software/technology in the field. One of the first courses in the MSBIA program will include an overview of statistical concepts. If a student wanted to prepare for the program in additional ways, he/she could review some concepts in statistics by reading an introductory business statistics textbook.

[OnlineEducation.com] What sets Saint Joseph’s MSBIA program apart from other analytics and BI programs and what are some of the unique features of the program? In addition to the SAS Business Intelligence Certification that graduates are eligible to receive, what advantages does the program provide from a career training perspective, and how do you keep the curriculum up to date with innovations in the field?

[Dr. Clements] The MSBIA program at Saint Joseph’s University is unique from other programs in many ways. First, it is offered within an AACSB accredited business school versus within computer science-type department, giving students a competitive edge when applying the analytics skills in a business setting. Also important, the MSBIA program has a STEM designation (CIP code 52.1301). The STEM designation is an indicator of the high level of rigor of our program and also indicates the program incorporates research, innovation, and new technologies into the coursework. We offer four unique tracks within the MSBIA program, which allows students to acquire a specialized skill set. In every track, students will learn immediately relevant skills that can be applied across all industries and business functions. The last feature that I will mention is that courses in the online MSBIA program at Saint Joseph’s University are taught by the same faculty experts at the same tuition rates as on-campus courses.

We work hard to keep our curriculum up to current industry standards by utilizing an advisory board. The MSBIA advisory board members are leaders in the BIA field. We call on them to aid in ensuring our curriculum aligns with current industry needs and ask them to anticipate future trends.

We work hard to keep our curriculum up to current industry standards by utilizing an advisory board. The MSBIA advisory board members are leaders in the BIA field. We call on them to aid in ensuring our curriculum aligns with current industry needs and ask them to anticipate future trends. Specifically, we meet with our advisory board annually and have them review current course content and make recommendations for updates to ensure the program remains current as the field of study evolves. By tapping the minds of the top thinkers, doers, and leaders in the field, we offer an innovative and cutting-edge learning experience in our MSBIA program.

The coursework in the MSBIA program prepares students to sit for the SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Exam. If they pass this external exam, they earn an additional certificate provided by the SAS Institute, which is a notable addition to their resume. Our alumni hold impressive job titles, including: Business Solutions Analyst, Application Analyst, Program Manager, Software Engineer, SAS Analyst, Web Application/Web Design, Social Media Coordinator, Software Developer, Data Specialist, and IT Director.

Visit the Saint Joseph’s University website to learn more about the online Master of Science in Business Intelligence & Analytics (MSBIA) program.