Real World Experience: Business Analytics Practicum

Professor Russell Walker teaching a class of MSBA students.

In the Master of Science in Business Analytics program we recognize that learning occurs both in and out of the classroom. Real-world business problems are often complex, unstructured, and often lack perceptible outcomes as found in academia. That’s why hands-on learning is such an important part of the MSBA program. We want our students to be ready for whatever they may encounter in their careers. The Business Analytics Practicum taught by Professor Russell Walker is an unrivaled capstone experience that students complete during their spring and final quarter. It is truly the culmination of the knowledge and skills students develop in the MSBA program.

All About the Project

Through the practicum course, MSBA students work in teams to use a variety of analytic methods such as regression analysis, data mining, and optimization to complete a task for a client. Projects are sponsored by companies and previous clients have included Seattle area icons such as Microsoft, Alaska Airlines, and Tableau.

The course’s unique structure is another large part of its success. There are no lectures, additional assignments, or quizzes beyond the client project. “It’s all about exercising the project. Just like you would exercise one in the real world,” Walker says. “We think of it as a preamble to your career.”

Coach Russell Walker

“I use the word coach,” Walker says of his role. “I’m there to support the teams and provide guidance and growth.”

Professor Russel Walker is an Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business and has extensive experience developing and leading experimental learning analytics. He teaches the MSBA Leader Series and Marketing Fundamentals class making him a familiar face to students once they begin the practicum.

The MSBA Leader Series is a one-credit seminar-style course that students take in the summer, fall, and winter quarters. In a way, it serves as a precursor to the practicum course as it includes guest speaker sessions with lectures from industry leaders and well-known academics outside of Foster.

A strong proponent of experiential learning, Walker allows and encourages students to make their own decisions regarding their projects, but he does and will help students remain on track. It is still a learning experience and opportunity for MSBA students, after all.

Mutual Real-World Advantage

The practicum not only benefits the students taking the course but also the sponsoring companies who elect to get involved.

For sponsoring companies, groups of five to six students will spend about 500 hours working on the assigned project. Likewise, Dr. Walker’s intellectual contribution backed by his 20 plus years of industry experience is also provided. However, an even larger benefit is the relationships that the companies can build with Foster and our students.

“The participating companies are not only able to get some phenomenal work done by our students, but more importantly the practicum allows them to form relationships with Foster and to meet our students who they may actually want to recruit,” Walker explains.

For students, the real-world experience of this practicum is invaluable. Students who have completed this course in the past have attributed the experience as the main factor in their success of both landing their first job after graduating but also as a template for succeeding early in the industry.

Check back next week to read more blogs on the Business Analytics Practicum!



Written by Maryam Noor
MSBA Writer & Content Strategist
[email protected]

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