With big industry in need of data analysis, Xavier heeds the call with two new graduate programs
As a Xavier alumnus, Tim Schroeder is grateful for the education he received in the late 1970s. But as a Xavier trustee, parent and employer, he understands that higher education is changing radically, and institutions like Xavier must change, too. That prompted Schroeder to help launch the new Master of Science in Health Economic and Clinical Outcomes Research (HECOR) in a unique partnership with his company, CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services.
The HECOR program is one of two new graduate programs launched this fall to help bridge the employment gap between industry and data analysis, and between universities and the industries that employ their graduates. HECOR, offered through the College of Professional Sciences, joins the Master of Science in Customer Analytics in the Williams College of Business, in training students to analyze and make recommendations based on the reams of data generated every day.
“Companies have plenty of people who can use analytics packages to pull data,” says Scott Beck, customer analytics director. “What they really need are people to help them understand what it means and how to use it.”
For Schroeder, Chief Executive Officer of CTI, the HECOR program positions Xavier as one of the first universities to train students in a rapidly growing field. Only a handful of similar programs exist in the U.S., and none are within Xavier’s traditional geographical reach. Schroder says such programs update the traditional aim of a university for a changing world.
“As a graduate, trustee and father, one of the questions I’m always asking is, in addition to the way a Jesuit education prepares graduates for life, are we preparing them for a fulfilling career?” Schroeder says. “The mission and values of the school—how do we keep them front and center while being able to adapt to all the changes in the world?”
Both programs were created in partnership with companies that need people skilled in data analysis and interpretation. In addition to CTI, which performs clinical trials and consulting on pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices, companies like Johnson & Johnson, Kroger, Macy’s and Medpace are working with Xavier as partners and future employers.
As HECOR Director and Assistant Professor Eileen Alexander explains, the 2009 federal stimulus package gave hospital and health care systems money to switch to electronic records, which greatly increased the amount of health data available. Not long after, the Affordable Care Act and the centers for Medicare and Medicaid began requiring that providers use data to improve outcomes. The huge data sets, which have been stripped of identifying information, can offer more information about what really succeeds in making people healthier.
“After we’ve done all these clinical trials and the FDA’s approved drug protocols and devices, our job is to apply them to real people to see if they’re really working,” Alexander says. “We have the opportunity to improve outcomes on a scale that we’ve never had before. We can do things not just for profit or because it’s right; by being more effective, I think we can do both, and we can take care of everybody.”
The relationship between CTI and HECOR prompted CTI to move its consulting and biometrics department to an office building at University Station on the eastern edge of campus. Students studying data mining, statistical modeling and epidemiology work closely with CTI as they prepare for jobs as analysts and managers in the field of health care analytics.
The customer analytics program also came from ongoing discussions with businesses about the kinds of employees they most need now and in the future. Estimates are that demand will outpace the number of data analysts by 60 percent—about 170,000 jobs—by 2018, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 14-percent job growth for health economists by 2025.
“We’re constantly asking what we could be doing better, and a data analytics program kept coming up,” says Beck.
The Cincinnati area is a hotbed for consumer goods and retail companies, and Beck counts Procter & Gamble, Cintas, Kroger, Macy’s and the consumer analytics firm 84.51 as partners. The program is heavy on quantitative skills and targets business majors and others with strong analytical skills. Beck envisions an emphasis on customer analytics in the undergraduate business program, and eventually a Center for Customer Analytics on campus where companies can bring their data for students and teachers to analyze.
HECOR could eventually extend to undergraduates, and Schroeder expects the graduate program to keep growing. A handful of CTI employees are enrolled, and the company hired a HECOR student already, even though he won’t be available full-time until he finishes his degree.
“The graduates of this program will be in a position to have really good careers,” Schroeder says. “I think it’s a place for Xavier to make a mark for itself.”