Business Analytics Program Celebrates Five Years with Annual Tech Day Event

As one of the leading programs of its kind in the country, the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business recently celebrated its fifth anniversary which coincided with the school’s annual Tech Day event.

Tech Day is a professional development and networking event open to students across campus and the Mason School’s graduate online programs. It brings together alumni and partners in the tech space for a series of panel discussions and an employer showcase. Current students are able to forge connections with representatives from companies and organizations who are looking to hire graduates with the technical skills and business acumen possessed by William & Mary students.

“An event like Tech Day brings immense value to my William & Mary experience. I made really good connections with potential future employers,” said Olivia Siegal, MSBA ’22. “It is especially valuable to make connections with people who already have an understanding of how the program works because we were able to skip over “what classes are you taking” and go straight to “why are you excited about data science and our particular company”. I chose William & Mary for events exactly like this one, and I was particularly impressed by this event.”

A Focus on Healthcare Analytics

For a second year in a row, Tech Day was held in an online format. Students from the online and residential MSBA programs attended as did students from the undergraduate business, undergraduate Arts & Sciences, Master of Business Administration, Law, graduate Computer Science, and graduate Computational Operations Research programs.

“The online nature of Tech Day allows us to include more students throughout multiple disciplines across campus,” said MSBA Faculty Director and Clinical Associate Professor Joe Wilck. “And as companies have gotten used to recruiting through an online structure, we had more interest and participation than we’ve ever had.”

The focus of this year’s Tech Day was on healthcare analytics.

“We are seeing more students go into the healthcare analytics field. It’s definitely a timely topic for what’s going on in the world. We also knew we had some great speakers available,” Wilck said.

The morning session included a keynote from Christer Johnson, BA ’92 who serves as the Chief Analytics Officer at Healthfirst and also serves as the Board Chair of the Mason School Business Analytics Advisory Board. Johnson moderated a panel discussion on the next wave of healthcare innovation.

Mason School Professor Monica Tremblay; Jeffrey Thomas, MBA ’13; Neal Miller, BBA ’09, MBA ’19; Rob Garnett, MBA ’13; and Chris Gordon, BS ’96, MS ’99, MBA ’17, MSBA ’22 participated in the discussion. Thomas is the Chief Technology Officer at Sentara. Miller and Garnett serve as the Staff Vice President of Advanced Analytics and Vice President of the Analytics Center of Excellence, respectively, at Anthem. Gordon is the Deputy for Finance & Technology and Chief Financial Officer at the Virginia Department of Medical Services.

The afternoon panel discussion focused on using analytics to navigate COVID-19 and the next normal. Participants included Nami Choe, BA ’98 and Director of Marketing Data Science at Google; Daria (Dasha) Godunova, BA ’13 and General Manager of Digital Commerce at JetBlue Airways; Kaitlin Neitz, MSBA ’19, Marketing Analytics at Square; Tanner Reichard, MSBA ’19 and Senior Data Analyst for Publix Supermarkets; and Kate Willever, BBA ’07, MBA ’09 and Executive Director – Head of Product, Retirement at Morgan Stanley.

“The event was informative and the panelists came with diverse experiences which were insightful and interesting,” said Riti Dabas, MSBA ’22.

Through both panel discussions students learned that analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are really important to healthcare from the perspective of providers, like hospitals, but also from other key stakeholders such as the government with its Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Wilck also said the mix of alumni who participated naturally created a full circle effect.

“It was a happy coincidence that we had Chris Gordon on the morning panel. Through his position working for the Commonwealth of Virginia and his experience as an EMT, he personally administered COVID-19 vaccines to members of his community. Then in the afternoon, we had Tanner Reichard on the panel and he shared how in the early part of 2021, he developed an AI algorithm to help Publix Supermarkets distribute the vaccines in an equitable manner to their stores and pharmacies.”

An Alumni Class of 400 Strong

Over the last five years, the residential and online MSBA programs have graduated nearly 400 professionals. With the establishment of the undergraduate Data Science program, Wilck anticipates that Tech Day will continue to flourish due to alumni support.

“We learned this year, especially, employers are looking for analytical skills like R, Python, and SQL in their candidates. Since so many of our Tech Day employer showcase participants are alumni from William & Mary, they know our students possess those skills,” Wilck explained.

Though the MSBA program is moving into its sixth year, it is still one of the oldest analytics programs in the country. It is unique in that it combines technical rigor with business acumen, and it is one of the few programs that includes advanced skill work in two Machine Learning and one Artificial Intelligence courses.

“I see unlimited potential for us to grow at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Wilck. “I think our MSBA program in particular is becoming more well-known to employers and they are excited to partner with us through events like Tech Day. We are also seeing more referrals from alumni for prospective students, and as our Tribe of graduates grows, we are seeing more alumni come back and recruit our students because they know the quality of work these future professionals are capable of producing.”