New York University isn’t just looking to rack up another degree offering with its new master of science in business analytics program. The business school at NYU is opening up a data management innovation incubator of sorts, with added diversity, networking and outreach from its new campus in China.

Faculty and deans at NYU’s Stern School of Business are putting the finishing touches on the courses for its M.S. in Business Analytics program, scheduled to begin in May 2013. Classwork will be presented online and at its Manhattan campus, and will be the flagship degree offering from NYU’s China campus in Shanghai currently under construction.

The school is already taking in candidates for the more than three-dozen students that will make up its exclusive first classes, with plans to at least double that number after year one. Developed by NYU educators in both New York and China, the framework of the degree program includes staples for any data-focused degree, like lessons in metrics, data cleansing, models and business process. But before students even turn their master’s level attention toward data management, NYU faculty already want them thinking about another pillar of the new program: innovation.

“One of the first questions we ask in the admission process is, ‘Could you describe some data project that you would want to develop?’” says Eitan Zemel, NYU Stern’s vice dean for global programs. “Of course, we will have lectures about innovation and bright people coming in for real examples, but we are making … a project the common factor that goes through the program. Those projects are going to be run by students and, in some sense they are practicing innovation.”

Zemel says students will not be concocting data models for “theoretical projects” during the program. Rather, he sees it as a possible data management incubator, where work by students – generally people carrying on their business careers during coursework – may result in “a new business being formed.”

Another main element of the program is one heavily advocated by faculty and university advisors. Zemel calls it “social context,” the ethics and “human” issues of privacy, data tracking and volumes. Courses are still in development on this front, though Zemel indicates it will range in practice from social media analytics monitoring to security experts from government agencies.

“I don’t think it’s the right approach for us to preach or to say ‘This is right and this is wrong.’ But our objective is to have the angles covered, have the discussion and bring the human issues in front of the students,” he says.

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On the practical front of the program, most work will be through online development and channels, with a few weeks of travel to the New York or Chinese campus each year. This is a similar model to other successful recently established NYU master’s programs for finance and risk management. Zemel says the Shanghai location was chosen for this first-time degree offering based on the pool of technically skilled candidates from China looking to grow their business-side capabilities, as well as the shared global interest in the Chinese business market. With the arrangement of the dual campuses and students working remotely, Zemel says he foresees a bonus in program diversity for analytics degree students working and learning together.

And it’s that global business-side interest that has NYU thinking of this program as more than another computer science degree. Harry Chernoff, clinical professor of operations management and academic director of the degree program, points to data volumes and social media as topics that have put forward-thinking C-suite managers in a spot where they’re thinking about turning data management into “competitive advantage.”

“Our students will learn how to deal with the big data sets, extract meaningful information from them through innovative techniques, apply business models, and learn how the results can be used to help make decisions and set strategies,” says Chernoff.

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