If you’re going to really learn about real-world business data mining and analytics, you’ve got to get dirty. Dirty data, that is.

Dr. Goutam Chakraborty, professor in the department of marketing at Oklahoma State University, has made figuring out messy and gray data sets a must-do task for students in the data mining and analytics practices. Instead of “cleaned up” mock data sets, or a reliance on quickly dated textbook material, professor Chakraborty taps the business community for their disorganized data and their plans for CRM and data quality implementations. Students start with mounds of information in an effort to build data models and streamlined processes, which makes for a learning experience for professor and students alike, Chakraborty says.

The results? Numerous data quality and management awards for students during their studies and immediate job opportunities after receiving their degrees.

“When you actually go into the business world and you look at the data, half of the data is missing, some of it doesn’t make any sense, but you still have to use it. You can’t say, ‘I quit,’” Chakraborty says.

Under the umbrella of OSU’s Spears School of Business, the university offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in management information systems, certificate programs in data mining and business analytics, and graduate certificates in business data mining and information assurance. Chakraborty joined the faculty of the Stillwater, Oklahoma-based university in 1991, but it wasn’t until about a decade later that, along with his faculty, Chakraborty revamped the certificate programs to better reflect the business side of data challenges.

Based on his enterprise data and marketing background from work with Union Carbide and other marketing experience in Asia, Chakraborty established certification and degree programs that are cross-listed with everything from industrial data processes and Six Sigma enrichment to the foundations of programming, statistics and algorithms. Those changes, along with growing opportunities in the fields of data management, have raised on-campus and online participation in the programs to a new high of about 85 students total per semester, with a range of students customizing studies to fit their interests in everything from business analytics to “hardcore programming,” says Chakraborty.

Click here for an Information Management slide show of higher education programs tackling the modern challenges of data management and BI.

The OSU programs receive sponsorship from SAS and students have taken the most awards from that vendor’s annual data “shootout” challenges. But Chakraborty is quick to add that students use systems and tools from IBM and other vendors as well. Chakraborty says the diverse business focus truly needs participation from the business community, where there has been increasing concern over the lack of data management students prepared for workforce issues. He’s heard that call at conferences, and says it’s led to more traction from the business community in turning over often-guarded dirty data sets.

“You want trained students? Well, what you have to do is give us the data to do actual projects for you. There, we get to work with real data in partnership with a business, and the students get to feel what the real pains are in different parts of the process,” he says.

Already tasked with coursework that carries a 50-percent content turnover rate each year, Chakraborty says there are no sweeping changes or additions planned by the department in the near future. But, as he and his fellow faculty hear back from students now placed in the working world, Chakraborty says that taking on practicum, particularly in analytics, is inevitable.

To learn more about the community behind OSU’s programs, “like” them on Facebook.


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