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Engage at Spears is the official magazine of the Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University.

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Chakraborty teaches
how to delve into
data as a discipline
engage@spears summer 2015
conti nues
What the heck have I done
to myself? … I thought Id
made the biggest mistake
of my life.
summer 2015 engage@spears
ne beautiful autumn
morning in 1986, Goutam
Chakraborty stepped outside
a classroom at the University
of Iowa. The business grad student men-
tally sorted through his own personal big
data file that had propelled him into a
stark, new life.
Months earlier, the young marketing
executive had been chaueured around
his hometown of Calcutta, India. His
employer, a tobacco company, also paid
for his luxury apartment and handed
him a $10,000 travel and entertainment
“What the heck have I done to myself?
What have I done?” he said to himself
that day.
At 27, he had eectively tossed those
amenities out the polished limo door to
become another poor college student
eating ramen noodles in a $250/month
eciency apartment.
“I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of
my life,” the Oklahoma State University
marketing professor says with a laugh,
sitting in his neat oce in the Business
Building on the Stillwater campus.
The founder of the data mining certifi-
cate program in OSUs Spears School of
Business says he had moved to Iowa City
to stay just long enough to get a mas-
ters degree in statistics and a doctorate
in marketing. Then he’d return home
to Calcutta.
But, unexpectedly, his passion kicked in
to help students make sense of compli-
cated data and use it to help businesses
and possibly even the world. And that
changed everything.
“It was unplanned. … Most of my fellow
schoolmates back in engineering school
still don’t believe thats what I do these
days,” says Chakraborty.
They say, ‘No! It can’t be!’”
Now, the internationally recognized data
mining and analysis expert has found his
true calling as an American father … of
about 700 kids.
Besides his own two teenage sons,
Chakrabortys family includes his “second
set of kids” who have gone through his
big-data certification program in the past
10 years.
A few years after joining OSU as a quan-
titative marketing professor in 1991, he
worked with Dr. Marilyn Kletke, now-
retired professor in the Management
Science and Information Systems pro-
gram, to launch a graduate-level data
mining certification program, combining
aspects of engineering, statistics and
business with other disciplines.
The core level certificate requires students
to complete 12 credit hours of special-
ized courses, with the expert level cer-
tificate requiring up to 21 credit hours.
Chakraborty said few students are able to
manage the master’s degree requirements
and instead complete the 21-credit-hour
level of expert certification.
Sponsored by business analytics soft-
ware provider SAS, the stand-alone grad-
uate certificate program attracts students
undertaking master’s programs in various
“If you like playing with data, if you like
solving a problem, if you have intellectual
curiosity and you have some bent of math-
ematical aptitude, this is the best field you
can think of,” Chakraborty says.
As technology throws more and more
data at business people, the issue of how
to make sense of everything has grown.
In a 2011 study, research and consulting
firm McKinsey and Co. discovered a
yawning gap in that arena of the business
First, the firm identified a U.S. shortage
of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep,
deep analytical expertise. Second, it
identified a massive need for 1.5 million
people who are not as deeply trained but
know how to use data tools and tech-
niques to make better decisions — the gap
Chakraborty’s program helps fill.
“We can boast as much as we want,
saying we have the best program,” says
Chakraborty. “But let’s talk about valida-
tion from the marketplace.
In the past 10 years, his students have
presented 160 papers and posters at var-
ious conferences. Twenty-one OSU stu-
dents have been honored with best paper
or best poster awards. In fact, OSU stu-
dents have nailed 12 top prizes in the
SAS-sponsored Analytics Shootout, one
of the largest analytics conferences in
the world.
“We have been on the stage every year,
says Chakraborty. “There is not another
university in the U.S. that has that
Among numerous projects, Chakraborty’s
students are working on a massive data
problem for a Las Vegas casino company.
For three of the companys properties over
about three years, students are examining
what promotional materials work and
which eorts waste time and money.
The work involves millions and millions of
records and hundreds of columns.
“It’s something that is hard to manipu-
late and to make sense of. But, actually,
if you ask me, that’s not a very big data
problem,” Chakraborty says.
“It’s not, because a truly big data problem
could be billions of records. But from
a teaching point of view, a few million
He laughs.
You go from a mess of something to
something managers can understand and
take away and put into action,” he says.
And thats really what we try to teach in
the program.
His students are also working on a social
media eort, examining Twitter and
social media to see how public sentiment
shifted as the Ebola story evolved. They’ve
found people shifted from feeling scared
to mad to learning about preventative
The students examine the data and create
“sentiment mining models” to track peo-
ple’s sentiments about the topic.
conti nues
engage@spears summer 2015
One Strong Lineup
The Spears School has significant bench strength in analytics,
with several professors teaching and doing research as well
as Goutam Chakraborty.
Ramesh Sharda, vice dean of the Watson Graduate School
of Management, and Dursun Delen are co-authors of the
leading textbooks in analytics (
sharda/).Sharda and Delen are also known for their work on
applying data mining techniques for forecasting success of
Hollywood movies. Sharda serves as the executive director
of Teradata University Network, a group of academics that
shares teaching and learning resources in analytics, and
teaches a new course in Big Data technologies.
Rick Wilson, head of the Spears School’s Department of
Management Science and Information Systems (MSIS), and
Sharda were pioneers in applying neural network techniques
to predict if a firm would go bankrupt. Wilson is well known
for applying analytics in sports, and he teaches a very pop-
ular prescriptive analytics class in the MBA program.
Bryan Hammer joined the Department of MSIS in 2014. He
is developing health care analytics applications with OSU’s
new Center for Health Systems Innovation.
Thanks to this strength in analytics, OSU oers several pro-
grams to meet the needs of students and the industry. Two
graduate-level certificates are available in marketing ana-
lytics and business analytics, and the MBA program allows
for specializations in marketing analytics and data analytics.
Most of the current analytics coursework has been available
as an analytics specialization under the Master of Science in
MIS program. Going forward, the Master of Science in MIS
program will include a specialization in Data Science.
You go from a mess
of something to
something managers
can understand and
take away and put into
Students listen to Goutam Chakraborty’s lectures.
summer 2015 engage@spears
New master’s
program on track
A Master of Science in Business Analytics
program has been approved by OSU regents
and is awaiting approval from the Oklahoma
State Regents for Higher Education. If the
program gets final approval by the middle
of June, the first classes are expected to
begin in the fall semester.
I’m excited. Very excited,” says Goutam
Chakraborty, marketing professor and
founder of OSU’s Data Mining Certificate
Program. “I think it will let us do what we
haven’t been able to do before — to say we
have a dedicated master’s degree in busi-
ness analytics.”
The master’s degree, building on the
coursework required for the current expert-
level certificate, would require 37 credit
hours for full-time students and 33 credit
hours forworking professionals taking
“The foundation is already there, and
that’s why it makes sense to do it,” says
In the last few years, roughly 100 universi-
ties have begun oering analytics degrees,
Chakraborty said.
And the jobs are asking for degrees in
analytics. And so our students will be at a
disadvantage,” he says.
Employers are already showing great
interest in the master’s degree. With the
program application, Chakraborty submit-
ted letters of support from several compa-
nies based in and out of Oklahoma.
The sponsor of the certificate program,
business analytics software provider SAS,
will also sponsor the master’s coursework,
which will incorporate finance, accounting,
information science,industrial engineering,
statistics and other disciplines.
“There will be more interdisciplinary
courses,” says Chakraborty. “But the foun-
dation remains the same.
— Sonya Colberg
Such projects and those OSU certifi-
cates have helped students find good
jobs with well-known companies
across the United States and beyond.
“If you ask me a company name, I can
look it up on my database and say, ‘Yep,
there’s someone from our program
with that company,’ ” Chakraborty says.
Discover Card Financial Services,
Capital One, SAS Institute and JP
Morgan Chase have each hired 10 to 13
data mining and analytics students.
Love’s Travel Stops, Bank of Oklahoma
and QuikTrip are just a few Oklahoma
employers who’ve hired these students.
He knows this through feedback from
employers and because many students
stay in touch.
“I’ve reached the point in life where
it doesn’t really matter what I do. But
what my students do makes more of a
dierence to me. When they’ve done
well, thats what I’m most proud of,
Chakraborty says.
He recently visited a former student at
his Oklahoma oce and learned the
young man had built a model that his
boss recognized as an opportunity to
create $1 million in additional revenue
for the company.
Indeed, he says some of his proudest
moments occur when former students
tell him, “Dr. C, what you’ve taught us,
I still use it.
And … “Dr. C, I still have your notes.
And … “I still go back and watch some
of your videos.
Chakraborty shakes his head in
amazement and gently tucks those
moments away into his personal big
data file, along with memories of the
straight-A report cards brought home
by his biological kids and all the bits
of touchstone evidence that they are
good people.
Oh so slightly, Chakraborty pauses — a
moment of reflection, perhaps.
“I’m very happy that I left the corpo-
rate world and became a professor
— because I think thats my calling,
he says.
“If anything, I’ve learned in life, you
just have to follow where life takes
you,” he adds. “If you are curious
enough, passionate enough, you will
find yourself.
Im very happy that I left
the corporate world and
became a professor —
because I think that’s my
engage@spears summer 2015