COLLEGE STATION, T.X. — Earlier this year, Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School boasted top ranking for Fortune’s list of preeminent Business Analytics programs. Now, in just their second year of ranking eligibility, the program has leapt more than 50 places on the U.S. News and World Report list of Best Online Graduate Business Programs. From a ranking of 6th in Texas and 72 overall last year, to this years’ 2nd in Texas and 16th overall – the Mays’ program performed exceptionally across a host of competitive metrics in the ranking’s methodology. Categories included: engagement, expert opinion, faculty credentials and training, services and technologies, and student excellence.

Atop the list of data points informing the U.S. News methodology was engagement, an area where the Mays’ MS Analytics program (Mays’ first online offering) really sets itself apart, according to program director Myra Gonzalez. “Our program is unique in that it’s one of the few online, non-MBA, part-time, business programs designed for working professionals.” Drawing on their own experiences in graduate school, Gonzalez and program manager, Javier Aldape, sought to make the process of completing the MS analytics program student-centric and seamless. They identified engaging and supporting students more holistically (beyond the enrollment process) as essential to student retention and – ultimately – graduation rates.

Creating a “one-stop-shop” for student services – to keep students focused on school and eliminate obstacles to program success – they cut the middleman across campus offices and partner with students directly to help them navigate everything from onboarding and financial aid, to tutoring, academic advising and business degree plans. “We know first-hand the balancing act that’s required to achieve simultaneous success in school, work and home life,” shared Aldape. “We wanted to reduce administrative burden and stress, creating opportunities for students to focus on their classes, finish their degree plans on time, and engage meaningfully with their peers.” Gonzalez concurs, “We hope students will reflect on this time as a positive one, despite the workload. By building relationships with the students in our program and providing a single point of contact for administrative details, we replicate the simplicity and personal touch of a small-school experience in tandem with the resources and educational value of a major university.”

First-class faculty also drove the program’s ranking. Unlike instructors for many online programs, Texas A&M’s MS analytics professors typically have terminal degrees, in addition to robust industry experience. “This ranking reflects the excellence of our faculty and the distinctive blend of skills they bring into the classroom,” shared associate dean of graduate programs, Jerry Strawser. “Outstanding academic credentials, paired with deep private sector experience, uniquely position our instructors to equip students with the tools to excel in this rapidly evolving field.”

Additionally, with online hybrid delivery that dates back to 2013, the program’s faculty are fully prepared to create a distance-learning experience that is both effective and provides comparable instructional value to a traditional classroom setting. Gonzalez is quick to note the distinction. “Our faculty’s distance-learning tenure significantly predates the wave of online courses we saw offered in answer to the Covid-19 Pandemic. This isn’t a new playing field for us; our instructors are highly accustomed to instruction in a hybrid face-to-face and online setting.”

The breadth of faculty credentials helps provide greater parity with classroom learning in a digital setting – a program priority its leaders pursue relentlessly. To that end, Aldape and Gonzalez have curated a state-of-the-art, intuitive learning management system that prioritizes user experience and accessibility. “By ensuring a frustration-free technology component to the degree, we’ve seen a major boost in student engagement with course materials and peers, as well as a more positive outlook and strong retention,” shared Aldape.

A standardized interface and simple navigation for course structure and material – regardless of the course – offers students one-click access to recorded lectures, syllabi, course content, contacting the professor, and networking with fellow students. Assignments and exams are integrated such that interaction with key content is a prerequisite to accessing subsequent coursework. The design of this “read, reflect, display, do” model aims to keep students focused and engaged, courses interactive and to reduce pain points. The system builds on a service model focused on student experience, helping them manage course expectations and facilitating connectivity between students, their cohorts, and instructors.

Lastly, among other marketing and engagement efforts that bolster expert opinion of the MS Analytics program, the value of the student capstone projects to their respective organizations is noteworthy.  As part of the capstone, students are tasked with building a predictive model in support of their current employers. The projects run the gambit from safety modeling, to expected well production, to predicting outages before they happen. For the 2021 cohort the average estimated annual value per student capstone project is $18.2 million in savings or new revenue for their organizations. “Our students are leveraging their extended education to drive demonstrable value for their organizations – and that is something we are exceedingly proud of,” shared acting Dean, R. Duane Ireland. “It really affirms the caliber of the students coming through this program;” with an average student GPA of 3.5 paired with an average 13 years of work experience; “for student excellence, we are setting the bar.”

For an overview of the Texas A&M’s MS Analytics Program, visit the MS Analytics site. The program is currently accepting applications for the fall 2022 cohort.  To request more information, contact Javier Aldape, Program Manager at 979-845-2149 or jaldape@mays.tamu.edu.