Northern Michigan University Associate Professor Madison Ngafeeson recently completed a one-year professional development sabbatical, during which he enrolled as a full-time student in Harvard University's business analytics program. Now he is applying the knowledge gleaned from his experience to collaborate with NMU College of Business colleagues on shifting the computer information systems (CIS) program to data analytics.
“The College of Business had discussed this as part of strategic programming and hired one faculty member in that area, but now we are thinking of an entire transition,” he said. “CIS deals with how we use computers and information technology to help us do business. Data analytics focuses more on how we analyze the data generated in business—from accounting, marketing and other departments—to make better decisions.”
Ngafeeson used NMU Institutional Research as an example. He said its staff crunches university data related to enrollment and retention that helps to guide university strategies for recruitment, advising and marketing.
“I wanted to personally add knowledge in business analytics, which is what we are working toward, so we have more resources in that area and can build the program,” he added. “I looked into other programs, and saw Harvard was offering a more comprehensive program that I could dive into in the shortest time possible attending full time.”
Ngafeeson enrolled for three terms spanning from fall 2020 through summer 2021. He participated in six eight-week classes, three two-week seminars, and two online “immersions” with relevant experts. He said business analytics is the only program at Harvard hosted by three schools: business, arts and sciences, and engineering and applied sciences. It is called the Three Shields Program.
“Learning from the best of the best was one of the greatest privileges I had. Business analytics is a combination of computer science, business and some art. It extends beyond the technical, so they put it all together with broad expertise in all aspects related to the field. During my time, I was taught by no less than 30 professors. I also worked with colleagues and students representing all diverse industry sectors, and from a variety of countries.”
During his sabbatical leave, Ngafeeson developed two graduate-level courses. He will be teaching one of those, People Analytics, during the winter 2022 semester. Students will learn how to use data to make “people decisions” that are informed by data. He said he also looks forward to introducing a new class called Digital Strategy and Analytics in the upcoming semesters.
“I believe the College of Business is building great programs that our students will greatly benefit from,” he added.