Published 03/28/16

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Bryant's analytics programs built from scratch with industry powerhouse SAS

These days, companies in every sector from healthcare to retail are eagerly gathering data on their customers. Yet once they’ve collected this information, how do they analyze it? For Bryant University professors and analytics experts Richard Glass, Ph.D., and Alan Olinsky, Ph.D., the question represented both challenge and opportunity—for the university and its students.

“A few years ago, we began hearing complaints from employers that although students knew a lot about analytics, they couldn’t apply that knowledge,” observes Glass, a professor of Computer Information Systems. So in the summer of 2013, he joined forces with Olinsky, a professor of Mathematics and Computer Information Systems, to tackle the problem head on and the two co-founded Bryant’s Advanced Applied Analytics Center.

"We want our students to learn not only how to use analytics ... but also to be conversant with the relevant software used to analyze that data."

Their move was well-timed. Within the next two years, McKinsey & Company forecasts a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.

Glass and Olinsky took an innovative approach to the problem, collaborating with the analytics industry powerhouse SAS® to create three certification programs: an undergraduate interdisciplinary concentration in analytics, among the first of its kind anywhere; an undergraduate concentration in applied statistics in the mathematics department with certification in data mining; and a graduate certificate in business analytics, an increasingly popular program which may also be pursued as a specialization in the MBA program.

“Rather than repurposing existing courses, we designed the offerings for our analytics program from scratch to ensure content and continuity,” Glass explains. “We want our students to learn not only how to use analytics in their field but also to be conversant with the relevant software used to analyze that data,” Olinsky notes.

SAS® has been valued partner from the outset. “The company not only offers financial support for our programs, but also sends guest speakers to campus to participate in a fall SAS® Day and sponsors a SAS® Institute Award that is presented annually to two undergraduates at commencement,” notes Olinsky, who earned the 2015 SAS® Distinguished Professor Award.  SAS® Senior Director of Global Academic Programs Jerry Oglesby also reviews all course content to make sure that it is both relevant and timely.

David Shannon ’17, a junior with a double concentration in finance and analytics and a minor in marketing, is already realizing the benefits of the specialized training. He’ll be working in the analytics department of Liberty Mutual this summer and hopes to continue with the company after graduating.

Leah Babat, a 2015 MBA graduate with a specialization in business analytics, also quickly recognized the value of her degree, landing a job as a Sourcing Analyst in IT Sourcing and Vendor Management for CVS Health shortly after graduation. “Dr. Olinsky and Dr. Glass spent a lot of time and effort making sure we understood everything that we were learning,” she says. “They’re phenomenal teachers,” agrees Jeffry Vendetti, one of the first students to complete Bryant’s newly minted Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics and a current MBA candidate. “Their emphasis on the application of analytics is great—they know both what to do and how to do it.”

“Our SAS® certifications are very important,” Glass notes. “They distinguish our students, and employers really like it.”