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Preparing for the 'knowledge economy'

St. Thomas University gives students hands-on experience with big data and analytics

From left,  St. Thomas University students in data analytics: 
Enzo Novi Migliano, Lisa Miranda Wallje, Damian A. Etchevest, and Dekoya Hodge. The Bobcat Business Analytics Enterprises Services gives them a chance to get real work experience with local companies.

Photographer: COURTESY

From left, St. Thomas University students in data analytics: Enzo Novi Migliano, Lisa Miranda Wallje, Damian A. Etchevest, and Dekoya Hodge. The Bobcat Business Analytics Enterprises Services gives them a chance to get real work experience with local companies.

MIAMI GARDENS | Local and national businesses are giving St. Thomas Universitystudents a chance to tackle real-world data analytics projects as part of an emphasis on the contemporary business landscape. 

Employers who have partnered with STU in data analytics projects now include FedEx, Miami FC, an American professional soccer team based in Miami; SAS analytics, a software maker; and the university’s own volleyball team, which is using software and data to help coaches assess and predict the performance of individual players and the team overall.

“Our students are working locally to do these projects and get real work experience,” said Janine Laudisio, vice president for communications. 

The program is called the Bobcat Business Analytics Enterprises Services, named after the school’s mascot, and is under the direction of Jose Rocha, assistant professor of management at STU’s Gus Machado School of Business

Jose Rocha, assistant professor of management at STU’s Gus Machado School of Business, directs the Bobcat Business Analytics Enterprises Services, named after the school's mascot.

Photographer: COURTESY

Jose Rocha, assistant professor of management at STU’s Gus Machado School of Business, directs the Bobcat Business Analytics Enterprises Services, named after the school's mascot.

“Big data” is a field of study that treats ways to analyze, systematically extract information from, or otherwise deal with data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing software.

“We don't want to provide numbers crunchers. We want to produce decision-makers who are going to contribute, who will change the world for a better place and who make a definitive impact in business organizations,” Rocha said. 

The premise for developing big data skills is preparation for the so-called fourth industrial revolution: Jobs once performed by humans are quickly being replaced by machines or sent to lower-cost markets, giving rise to new pressures in business to tap big data to do more with less and manage risk and fraud. 

“What businesses are doing now is seeing one specific factor for business competitiveness and it is analytics and big data. That is why we at STU are trying very hard to understand which are the 21st century skills our students need for the workforce of the future,” Rocha told a Strada Education Network gathering recently. 

Today’s students need a new set of skills and abilities to succeed in the world, to get that first job and to be more competitive in the race for talent and knowledge, at a time in history in which some five generations of workers are mingling in the workplace, according to Rocha. 

He said statistical analytics is one of the top management and business skills required by business organizations, propelled by the smart-phone revolution and the so-called “right-now revolution.” 

Rocha’s academic and professional background includes more than 15 years of international experience in higher education, academia, research, teaching, and industry with some of the top universities and Fortune 500 companies in the US, Mexico, and Latin America. He served at the top executive, faculty, and administration levels of the largest private educational system in Latin America: the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education University System (Tec de Monterrey – ITESM).

This fall, St. Thomas welcomed the largest incoming class of traditional students in the school’s history. Some 680 new students started classes Aug. 26 – more than double last year’s new student enrollment. St. Thomas’s total undergraduate enrollment is trending positively with 1220 students this fall as compared to 900 at this time last year.

St. Thomas School of Law reported that last fall it saw 192 new law students enrolled, but 243 new students are starting classes this year, a 26% increase. Law School enrollment is at 604 students.

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