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Analytics Alumna Finds Solidarity at Kogod

By Jamie McCrary

Linda Tacaraya

Linda Tacaraya, MSAn ’16, discovered something rare and sometimes elusive during her time at Kogod: professional solidarity. “It’s empowering to meet others who understand the struggles and rewards of working in analytics,” she says. “You feel more passionate about your work when you’re surrounded by others invested in the field as much as you are.”

Tacaraya, an analyst at the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), was initially attracted to Kogod’s Analytics@American program for its value to the public and private sectors. “Enrolling in the program was a no-brainer,” Tacaraya explains. “More and more, organizations need strong data analysts because they identify an organization’s successes and failures.”

This, in tandem with the strong personal connections she formed, made pursuing her degree at Kogod a “defining experience.”

The fact that Tacaraya could complete the program online – and would join its first graduating class – were additional draws. “Courses were in the evening, so I could go home after work for class. Having this flexibility helped me stay focused,” she says. “It was also empowering that, as one of Analytics@American’s first students, my experience could help shape the program.”

The Analytics@American program, a 33 credit hour online degree, trains students to use data analysis to solve complex business problems. The core curriculum aligns with Kogod’s on-campus Master of Science in Analytics program, featuring courses in managerial statistics, information systems, and database management. Part-time or full-time options are available, offering students the flexibility to set their own academic pace.

“One of our major goals is to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to become successful analytics professionals,” says Frank Armour, Analytics@American program director. “In three-five years, we want our graduates to say ‘that program was the foundation for how I was able to build a career in analytics.”

For Tacaraya, the most impactful part of the program was the on-campus weekend immersions. Structured as a two-part capstone course, the three-day intensives challenged students to work in-person to solve a real-life business problem. “The immersions were tough. They integrated each part of the curriculum and put our training to the test,” Tacaraya says.

This year the program partnered with Capitol One, offering students the chance to work directly with company representatives. Teams analyzed data and brainstormed solutions to the chosen issue, then offered their recommendations during a final presentation.

“Students leveraged the skills they’ve learned to address the problem at hand, and applied them to a real-life scenario,” says Jeff Reinhart, Analytics@American capstone professor. “This is experiential learning at its best.”

The immersions also included cohort networking events, such as happy hours and dinners, giving students the chance to get to know each other outside of the physical—and virtual—classroom. “The immersions are a lot of intense work, but worth the effort when you’re building friendships with your peers,” Tacaraya says.

Tacaraya is excited to apply the skills she acquired in the program to her job at the EIA. Her statistics courses were especially relevant, arming her with the modern-day tools she needs to stay ahead-of the curve in the field. “My favorite new skill is ‘R’ (statistical programming language), which is becoming the new standard in data analytics,” she says. “The EIA is a global leader in statistical data, and utilizes skills like ‘R’ I learned in my statistics classes.”

She hopes to leverage her newfound knowledge for professional advancement. “The roles I aspire to work in one day directly correlate to the skills I gained in the program. This degree will really help me when I apply for promotions within the EIA,” she says.

As an analytics professional, Tacaraya is both committed and passionate—a Kogod alumna who is motivated to use what she’s learned to shape a successful career. She’s invested in her organization, and in the friendships she formed while in the program.

It’s clear that her solidarity stands not just with her classmates, but with Kogod as an institution. “I’ll always feel a special connection to the school,” she says. “I feel confident moving forward knowing that I am a part of such a strong, supportive analytics community.”

Learn more about Business@American and Analytics@American. Please note that the application deadline for the next Analytics@American cohort is February 20, 2017.