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l-r Soumen Ghosh, Sridhar Narasimhan, and Keith Werle
l-r Soumen Ghosh, Sridhar Narasimhan, and Keith Werle

Three Reasons Georgia Tech Scheller Is Ranked No. 1 in Business Analytics

U.S. News & World Report ranks Scheller’s undergraduate and graduate business analytics programs No. 1 among public universities and No. 3 overall in the nation.

To better understand the reasons behind the rankings, we sat down with three Scheller leaders, Professor and Senior Associate Dean Soumen Ghosh; Professor and Faculty Co-Director of the Business Analytics Center Sridhar Narasimhan; and Professor of the Practice and Managing Director of the Business Analytics Center Keith Werle.

When their years at Tech are added together, these three leaders have spent more than 65 years at the Institute. In fact, Werle, who is a Scheller MBA, was a student of both Narasimhan and Ghosh when they were young associate professors.

We asked all of them one question:

“What is it about Scheller’s business analytics program that causes us to be ranked higher than almost every other university in the country?”

      1. Scheller’s Technical DNA/History

After some introductory sparring about who’s been there the longest (Narasimhan wins by two years), the three come to an agreement on the first reason for success: the strong technical and analytical foundation within Scheller.

“Although business analytics is a relatively new field, Scheller College of Business has spent decades getting really good at all the things that are essential to business analytics,” begins Ghosh.

Narasimhan agrees and adds, “Scheller has expertise in areas like operations, IT management, machine learning, and other quantitative-based subjects. All of the skills that make good business analytics experts are an integral part of our Institute DNA—and our core business curriculum.”

Ghosh sums it up. “Our excellence in analytics is truly a combination of the past and the present. Due to our strength in quantitative-based areas, we attract undergrads, grad students, and world-class faculty with strong backgrounds in STEM. That’s a natural driver in my mind. And as for the present, information is changing very rapidly. It's overwhelming businesses. And so immediate use of information…to be able to have some insights into what is happening is becoming critical. Our students have that capability. Our faculty have that capability.”

       2. World-Class Faculty and Tech-Savvy Students

Ghosh’s comments about the capabilities of faculty and students are the perfect segue into the next reason for success­­—world-class faculty and technically savvy students.

“One thing that strikes me is that we don’t have tenure-track faculty who are solely experts in business analytics,” says Narasimhan. “Instead, we have faculty across the spectrum with expertise in their respective domains who are doing research and dealing with data, handling huge data sets, and generating interesting business insights. Therefore, they are well-positioned to work with our students, teach them about business analytics, and get them excited to work with data.”

Ghosh elaborates. “It’s not just the excellence of our faculty. Our syllabus and core courses are dynamic. Our faculty are given a lot of freedom in both research and creating relevant classes. They constantly create additional content for existing courses and add new courses as well. They then pass their enthusiasm and knowledge down to our students.”

Werle nods in agreement. “Our world-class faculty and expertise in business analytics perpetuate continued excellence as talented students with an affinity for business analytics choose Georgia Tech when they see the quality classes and amazing faculty we have. For undergrads, the business analytics certificate is the second most popular certificate, behind only finance.”

Werle continues. “Our students are then hired by consulting firms and other technology innovators in Atlanta and around the world, creating a positive impact on the future of business analytics.”

      3. Interaction with Business/Atlanta

“That brings us to another reason we are top-ranked in business analytics,” states Narasimhan. “We are located in a vibrant, technology-rich city and we work with amazing global leaders from the Business Analytic Center’s Executive Council like The Coca-Cola Company, The Home Depot, AT&T, and UPS.”

Narasimhan adds. “Keith and I have worked with companies like NCR and King & Spalding that come to us and say: ‘Where should we put our efforts in business analytics? Can you help us think about BA in a strategic context? What does it mean for my company?’”

Narasimhan explains his point. “We make a difference with these companies. Right now, there is a PhD team working with Coca-Cola to analyze the effect of emotions in television ads on sales. We also offer practicums where teams of students spend a semester working on a real-world data challenge, then present their insights to the company.”

“And many of those insights and recommendations have actually been adopted by these international industry leaders,” adds Werle.

Werle continues. “I think you've hit upon another key theme there. We have deep and long relationships with these companies. We have found a way to truly partner that goes beyond experiential learning. We don’t just do a practicum project with a company and never connect with them again. More than half of the Business Analytic Center’s Executive Council have entire teams of PhDs doing research inside their companies.”

“We tell the companies that we will help you prioritize the bang for your buck/return on your investment. Then we follow it up. And that's driving a lot of the collaboration because companies don't always have the capability of doing this on their own. They are looking for collaborative projects or activities. History has put us in a great position to provide the solutions and answers these companies are looking for,” says Ghosh.

We presented the three leaders with one final question: “What is the role of the Business Analytics Center?”

“Scheller isn’t good at Business Analytics because of the BAC; the BAC is top in the world because we are in Scheller,” says Werle.

He continues. “The BAC plays a small, but important role. I do believe that when you’re dealing with the top three, even the top five in any endeavor, whether it’s an Olympic sport, or a business analytics ranking, it is the small but important details that get you on the podium.”

Narasimhan helped create the Business Analytics Center just six years ago. “With each year, we accrue larger and more measurable impacts to Scheller.”  

Werle, who has been the managing director of the Business Analytics Center for the last three years, echoes its potential. “The BAC is instrumental to our future success. As a center of thought leadership and a catalyst for industry and academic partnerships, the BAC offers strategic contributions that will continue to propel Scheller to new heights in business analytics education and innovation.”

Ghosh gets the last word. “Scheller faculty, staff, students, and alumni all deserve our gratitude for taking us to the highest level of academic achievement. What’s especially exciting is that our best years are definitely ahead as we continue both our scholastic efforts and teaming up with industry leaders to advance the practice of business analytics.”

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