Data Analytics Education Advances at Villanova University

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data analytics educationVillanova University was founded in 1842 and named for the Spanish Augustinian, St. Thomas of Villanova. It was recently listed as the 50th best university in the nation by U.S. News. Considered by many to be a world class academic community, Villanova offers an education based on liberal arts, and a commitment to the ideals of unity, love, and truth. They also offer a Master of Science in Analytics (MSA), and a new program, titled Master of Accounting with Data Analytics (MACDA), by way of their School of Business.

Master of Accounting with Data Analytics

The MACDA program is designed to satisfy the 150-hour CPA requirement which is now required in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and many other states. The new MACDA program was announced in July, 2017, and should be fully-functional in the fall of 2018. At that time, accounting students will have the opportunity to take Analytics and Big Data classes.

This is also when MACDA will resolve some very basic issues, and shift from a summer program to a year-round program. This will provide students the proper amount time needed to study and prepare for the CPA Exam. This change will allow an undergraduate to realize the 150 credit hours required for CPA licensing. Currently, the program offers these classes:


  • Orientation
    Leadership Course
    Negotiations Course
    Professional Development Program


  • Advanced Topics in Financial Disclosure and Fraud (3 credits)
    ERP Systems and Data Analytics (3 credits)
    Advanced Auditing Topics (3 credits)
    Taxes and Business Strategy (3 credits)
    Electives (up to 3 credits)


  • Data Modeling and Business Intelligence (3 credits)
    Risk Management and Performance Measurement (3 credits)
    Valuations in Accounting (3 credits)
    Electives (up to 6 credits)

The courses were designed using professional guidance from the business school’s “Accounting Advisory Council.” This is a group of professional volunteers from high-profile consulting and public accounting firms. The council members ensured the course offerings were relevant, up-to-date, and thought-provoking.

Master of Science in Analytics

The Master of Science in Analytics (MSA), on the other hand, is quite different. This program is part-time, only available online, and is currently fully functional. Making the situation even more interesting, U.S. News has ranked it as the 4th best online program in the nation. The classes for this very flexible program are available year-round, and is set up for working professionals. The online format is quite convenient, allowing students to earn a degree quickly and efficiently, while also allowing time for family and work. The structure of each class is designed to support a “high-touch learning environment,” and promotes open communication. The small classes are designed to help develop connections between students, and promote an environment where faculty can offer support to each individual student.

This 36-credit hour program is made up of 11 core and foundation courses, and includes an application-based project which is completed during the capstone phase. It has an abbreviated schedule, consisting of 12 terms. (As a time relationship, two terms equals a semester.) A maximum of two classes can be taken each term, allowing a student to complete the program in as little as two years. It should be noted, none of the classes can be waived! They are all mandatory, regardless of similar classes taken previously.

The Villanova School of Business recognizes today’s business decisions are data-driven. They understand the need for people who can bridge the gap between data experience and business experience. Their program provides the skills needed to collect and analyze data, and combines them with life experience to translate results into useful business intelligence. VSB did this by creating classes that are custom-designed to meet the student’s needs. Business executives and key faculty members provide guidance and training for the skills most urgently needed by the industry. The end results are classes that address Business Intelligence, Data Management, predictive models, and prescriptive models.

The required capstone project allows students to partner with a business and solve real-world problems. The program receives support from the Center for Business Analytics, which is governed by a group of business executives from companies such as Bank of America, IBM, Exelon, PPL, Aramark, SAP, Wyeth Nutrition (of Nestle), Campbell Soup, Harrah’s, and Janssen Healthcare Innovation (of Johnson & Johnson).

Because technology continues to move unrelentingly forward, one of the program’s goals is to provide training for a broad range of software packages. MSA students receive training in the use of leading analysis software. The MSA program exposes students to the entire analytics spectrum, from data collection to analysis to application and use. It provides students with critical analytics skills, preparing them for business analysis and its use.

Fundamental Classes

  • Introduction to Business Analytics
  • Introduction to Programming in R
  • Data Models and Structured Data Analysis
  • Multivariate Data Analysis

Core Classes

  • Enterprise Data Management
  • Business Intelligence
  • Analytical Methods for Data Mining
  • Analytical Methods for Text and Web Mining
  • Analytical Methods for Optimization and Simulation I
  • Analytical Methods for Optimization and Simulation II
  • Advanced Business Applications
  • Analytics Practicum


It should be understood the ideal candidate for Villanova’s MSA program comes with an undergraduate degree, a technical background, and is a working professional. Applicants must have completed a class (with a minimum B average) in statistics. When screening applicants, a student’s grades in classes, such as Business Intelligence, Statistics, and Research Analysis, carry a great deal of weight. During admission, experience in data analysis, statistical analysis, and data mining can be used as evidence of readiness for Villanova’s MSA program.

MSA applicants will need to complete the online application, which requires a professional resume, two essays, college transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. GRE or GMAT results are not required, but can help to counter a lack of technical background, or GPA scores lower than 3.0. International applicants must also submit a TOEFL score, present a transcript evaluation, and schedule and an admissions interview for a personal evaluation.

Computer Requirements

All students must have a Windows PC and Excel/2010, or later. (Some of their programs won’t work on Macs.) The faculty trains students to use a variety of software packages. It is recommended students do not use a computer from work to avoid conflicting issues with security and administrative settings.

The New Center for Business Analytics

Villanova’s Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems (VCADS) was created to explore and examine the use of data in diagnostics, prognostics, analysis, and health management. The center monitors the evolution of new tools and methods for analyzing dynamic systems, with applications in engineering, finance, and medicine. The VCADS possesses cutting-edge, unique tools, and a laboratory for their use.

The New Dean

On August 1, 2016, the school announced Joyce E. A. Russell’s appointment. She is the new Helen and William O’Toole Dean of the Villanova School of Business (VSB). Rev. Peter M. Donohue stated, “Dr. Russell’s proven track record as a visionary leader makes her a perfect fit to lead the Villanova School of Business into its next great chapter. Dr. Russell is a true teacher-scholar, who has been recognized for her teaching and research, as well as her commitment to service. We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Russell to the Villanova community, and look forward to continuing to see the School of Business thrive under her leadership.”

Joyce Russell, the new dean, stated:

“One area I want us to move more in, in the business school, is cybersecurity. It’s in computer science and engineering, but not necessarily in business. When you talk to CEOs, that’s their number-one stressor: What’s going to happen with data and breaches of security. We’re also trying to do more partnerships with the rest of campus — arts and sciences, engineering, nursing — because so many students want business skills.”


Photo Credit: Villanova University

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