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Graduates from the Muma College of Business All to be Citizen Data Scientists in Groundbreaking Program

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (September 27, 2018) -- With a stated emphasis on analytics and creativity in the world of commerce, the Muma College of Business has implemented a program that will bestow the certified title of Citizen Data Scientist on each and every undergraduate of the college. The program began this fall and includes a handful of classes that students in each major are required to take.

The end result: a certificate that could ease the way into the job market delivered alongside a diploma at graduation.

"Our students will be even more relevant for the workforce of the future," said Balaji Padmanabhan, a professor in the college's Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department and director of the Center for Analytics and Creativity, through which the courses are coordinated. "We want them all to start their careers being data-driven thinkers and doers and this program will play a key role in achieving that goal.

"We want analytics," he said, "to be very much part of the DNA for all our students."

The focus of the program is to equip undergrads, heading into the mainstream job markets in accounting, finance, management and marketing, with the skills they will need to collect and analyze data that will inform key business decisions.

"The certificate will mainly signal successful completion of a set of exercises over typically a two-year period," Padmanabhan said.

The program started this fall, with seven existing courses offered to bachelor's degree-seeking students. Each of these courses will have an exercise in which students analyze a dataset, produce visualizations/dashboards and come up with valid conclusions. Each of the assignments in these courses will end with student-produced videos that show how the exercises generated important business insights.

The idea of doing this began two years ago when the Center of Analytics and Creativity partnered with Tableau, a leading provider of visualization, dashboards and business intelligence software, to develop a unique program that now will provide undergraduate students with a certificate declaring them Citizen Data Scientists.

All undergraduate students are now required to take at least four such courses, Padmanabhan said. Students who successfully complete the curriculum receive a Citizen Data Scientist certificate.

Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said the Citizen Data Scientist program perfectly dovetails with the college's mission of assuring student success.

"This is a perfect opportunity for the Muma College of Business to better equip our graduating seniors with the skills they will need to compete for rewarding jobs with competitive salaries," he said. "Again, we are at the forefront of trends not only here in Florida, but across the nation and around the globe."

The goal, Limayem said, "is to prepare students for the new demands of the ever-evolving workforce."

"By providing this valuable education to our students," he said, "the Muma College of Business is responding to the needs of the outside business community, further solidifying the partnerships we consider to be a major part of our success and the success of our students.

"No longer is a basic education in accounting, marketing, management, finance and even entrepreneurship enough to succeed," he said. "Each student must have the ability to identify relevant data, analyze it fully and come up with insightful and creative solutions to complex business problems.

"And now, we are providing that needed focus for our students. Everybody wins."

The initiative requires coordination among the departments within the college to determine the courses in which the exercises will be embedded. While individual instructors determine the specifics of the exercise, they must include some common characteristics, such as related datasets that make sense for that course, a common visualization platform to analyze and make conclusions and the production of the video to evaluate each student's level of success.