Data Driven Degrees

New STEM designation sets finance grad students up for more success


Graduate students looking to maximize their return on investment can find more opportunity in the Merrick School of Business with a newly STEM-designated program. The Master of Science in Business-Finance was redesigned to incorporate current methodologies including quantitative analysis, data-driven decision making and mathematical modeling. These features—traditionally found in disciplines like science, technology, engineering and math—are aimed at drawing new students to The University of Baltimore and revitalizing international student enrollment. 

“There’s definitely a hunger for this kind of program,” said Danielle Giles, director of marketing and communications for UBalt’s business school. “Our students—especially international students—are looking for more comprehensive mathematics-based and data-focused programs that ultimately allow them to move up in their jobs. And that’s what we’re looking for—people looking to advance in their careers.”

Dr. Mikhail Pevzner, professor of accounting and graduate business program director, helped rebuild the program to meet modern demands. He believes the revised curriculum will give graduates an advantage in finding employment after graduation.

“It was a very natural thing to make the curriculum more data analytics intensive, because these are the kind of skills that the financial service industry requires.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlook for data scientists and computer and information research scientists will grow between 21-36 percent from 2021 through 2031—much faster than the national average for all positions.

“Finance today is all about data and analyzing data, so it was a very natural thing to make the curriculum more data analytics intensive, because these are the kind of skills that the financial service industry requires,” he said.

The STEM designation comes from the federal government, and the revised program required approval both from the University and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). The approval process took about a year.

“You write a very extensive proposal to MHEC,” he said. “Basically, you have to justify how it will help the state. You have to show there’s a market for it, that it’s not just a capricious change.”

The newly revised program will integrate some aspects of financial data analytics into all courses of the graduate degree, both core and elective. It is now designed to also help students become fluent in the use of current tools used—like the Python programming language—so they can learn to apply data analytics at a high level in the workforce.

The changes revolutionize the program that mainly featured introductory finance graduate courses and a broad choice of electives, Pevzner said.

Bishesh Rijal, a current graduate assistant from Nepal in the master’s program for finance, believes the revised curriculum and its new designation will propel students more effectively into their chosen fields.

His own study of data analytics has taken him from using a scientific calculator for his classes years ago to understanding and using Python today. He is excited for future international students who will be learning the latest skills at the business school.

“It will definitely provide them with a competitive advantage,” Rijal said. “They will be able to perform different tasks in different ways. They will be able to (assess) quality of data. They will also be able to recognize patterns and trends based on some seasonality.”

Pursuing the STEM designation is just one way the Merrick School of Business is striving to prepare students for in-demand careers, particularly in financial analysis or accounting, Pevzner said.

Employees in STEM fields either produce data or they interpret data, he said, and then they build models with that data to make financial decisions. Those decisions can include, whether to borrow money, whether to go public, whether to issue stock, and even to hire or fire.

“To make money decisions, you need data,” Pevzner said.

Matthew Liptak is a career journalist writing from Severna Park, Md.

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