New Initiative in Business Analytics Created to Meet Growing Student and Employer Demand

$6 million gift from alumnus Peter T. Paul ‘67 grows capacity in the Paul College of Business and Economics to educate more students and increase engagement with regional businesses
Three colleagues talking outside in front of Paul College Center for Business Analytics

hanks to the vast amounts of data available today, organizations now have greater access to information that can help influence critical business decisions. What they need are employees who can harness the power of big data, and support to help them employ analytics tools to create value for their business.

The UNH Paul College of Business and Economics has launched a new Business Analytics Initiative aimed at providing New Hampshire and regional businesses with the critical help needed to sustain a competitive advantage.

UNH alumnus Peter T. Paul ’67 made a $6 million gift to jump-start the initiative. A $25 million gift by Paul significantly funded the new state-of-the art college in 2008 and in 2013 the former Whittemore School of Business and Economics was renamed.

Peter T. Paul headshot
Peter T. Paul ‘67
“This investment in the Business Analytics Initiative will enable Paul College to build on its strong foundation and accelerate its educational offerings, research contributions, and industry engagement in this critical field that is reshaping business world-wide. The college is now recognized as one of the nation’s top business schools and I am proud to make this new investment to help it go from good to great as a significant player in this fast-evolving and growing field.”
— Peter T. Paul ‘67
As evidence of the increasing demand for professionals in the field of business analytics, in a recent 12-month period there were more than 2 million positions posted nationally and more than 75,000 in the Boston and Northern New England Region. (Burning Glass, 2020).

Business analysts are often thought of as the bridge between the IT departments and management. They are technologically and business savvy and can take large quantities of data, analyze it to build reports that help make sense of it, and provide actionable insights to drive strategic decision-making in their organizations.

In response to growing student and employer demand for undergraduate and graduate education in business analytics, UNH Paul College is significantly strengthening its offerings in this area. The college offers an undergraduate specialization in information systems and business analytics which has over more than 180 students enrolled. At the graduate level, Paul College offers a popular specialization in analytics in its MBA program, new master’s programs in business analytics and analytical economics, and a specialization in financial analytics in its master’s in finance program.

“Our vision is to build out a comprehensive and integrated Business Analytics Initiative that will drive the expansion of programs, course offerings, enrollments, research, and engagement to meet student and industry demand,” said UNH Paul College Dean Deborah Merrill-Sands. “We are developing business analytics as a specific area of academic expertise that will further distinguish us among business schools.”

According to Merrill-Sands, the college has invested incrementally in building its capacity in business analytics over the past five years. Currently, 17 faculty at Paul College are teaching and conducting research in business analytics across diverse fields such as decision sciences, operations, information systems, marketing, finance, accounting, and human resources.

The $6 million investment enables the college to:

  • Accelerate the hiring of faculty to expand teaching and research capacity
  • Provide scholarships and assistantships to attract high-performing graduate students and support upper-level undergraduate students
  • Establish a new Center for Business Analytics

“The field of business analytics is not entirely new, however, with the rapid growth in the amount of data produced by businesses and advances in computing technology the field is rapidly changing, and it is also changing the manner in which many business decisions are made,” said Khole Gwebu, associate professor of decision sciences. “There are many problems that students graduating with a degree concentration in business analytics can tackle. One example is in the area of fraud detection and prevention.”

Gwebu explained that whenever companies engage in transactions there is an opportunity for fraudulent activities to occur. Using statistical techniques or artificial intelligence techniques such as deep learning, business analytics professionals can help companies effectively and efficiently detect and mitigate fraud.

The Center for Business Analytics serves as the “hub” for the Business Analytics Initiative, bringing together the knowledge, expertise, and perspectives of professors, students, and industry professionals working in the field of business analytics.

“It will be the center in New Hampshire for companies and organizations to engage with to learn new skills, connect with students and professors to help find solutions to real problems, and to discover talent for internships and employment,” Merrill-Sands said. We are committed ensuring that the Business Analytics Initiative serves not only our students but regional businesses as well,” she said.

Nagaraj Bukkapatnam
Nagaraj Bukkapatnam, Director of the Center for Business Analytics
Nagaraj Bukkapatnam was named the center’s inaugural director and joined the college in August. His areas of expertise include artificial intelligence, digital analytics, marketing analytics, product innovation and design. What makes Bukkapatnam uniquely suited for the position is his added experience of fostering academic-corporate partnerships to integrate experience-based learning into the curriculum, mentoring students on internships and job opportunities, and advising companies on developing analytical competencies.

UNH alumnus Richard Ackerman ’96, vice president, workforce development at Red River in Claremont, said UNH’s expansion of its business analytics programs is a win-win for students and businesses. He has sponsored Paul College student capstone projects that help the company get ideas for solutions they may not have considered, and those projects also help gauge the talent of the students, who they sometimes hire.

Richard Ackerman headshot
Richard Ackerman ’96
“There is a tremendous need for graduates who can understand and work across the disciplines, massage the data and visualize it, while also understanding the needs and wants of the business, the challenges and constraints, and the market space in which they operate”
— Richard Ackerman ’96, vice president at Red River
Bryan Belanger headshot
Bryan Belanger ’10, 11G MBA, senior director at Technology Business Research, Inc.
Bryan Belanger ‘10, ‘11G MBA, senior director at Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) in Hampton, earned both his bachelor’s degree and MBA at UNH and has been engaged with the business school since it was the Whittemore School of Business and Economics.

He knows first-hand the power of industry and university engagement. Belanger’s relationship with TBR began through an MBA corporate consulting project and internship. He is now a partner in and owner of the firm where he leads the Tailored Services Division, which completes custom research and consulting projects for the world’s largest and fastest-growing technology products and services firms. TBR hires the majority of its interns and employees from UNH.

Belanger said that data is now the path for businesses to monetize growth and the skill sets to understand that data, make sense of it, and present it to executives is highly sought after.

“The Center for Business Analytics that is part of this initiative is absolutely critical in New Hampshire to bring small businesses together to share knowledge, learn and connect with students and researchers in this emerging area.” Belanger said. “It lifts all boats, so to speak—students, faculty, the university, and businesses.”

Samantha Woodward graduated from Paul College in 2020 with a B.S. in business administration with a specialization in information systems and business analytics. She is now a part-time student in the college’s M.S. Business Analytics program. She is employed as a marketing operations specialist at Bottomline Technologies in Portsmouth, N.H.

Samantha Woodward headshot
Samantha Woodward ’20
“Business analytics was compelling to me because it is quantitative and enabled me to work with analytical tools and use them to problem solve. I believe I got my current job because of my experience in analytics attained as an undergraduate at Paul. The marketing department at Bottomline is becoming more data driven so my skills align well. What I am learning now in the M.S. business analytics program can be immediately applied.”
— Samantha Woodward ’20, marketing operations specialist at Bottomline Technologies
Ian Newcombe
Ian Newcombe ’16, senior infrastructure engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance
While she was an undergraduate student Woodward was part of the student organization Artifex that applies data analytics to real-world business problems. Members of Artifex take a hybrid course in which one weekly classroom session is devoted to learning modern analytics tools and a second weekly session leverages those tools to build analytics products with industry partners.

“I am excited about the idea of having the Center for Business Analytics as a place where students can get together to share ideas, team up on homework and work together on problems and projects,” Woodward said. “The center will help provide more opportunities for projects with companies and help match students with industry mentors.”

Ian Newcombe graduated from Paul College in 2016 with a B.S. Business Administration, with specializations in both information systems and business analytics and finance. He now works as a senior infrastructure engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Portsmouth, N.H.

In his job Newcombe helps manage all aspects of data storage for six separate environments. He said he was originally interested in management when he was a student, but a data modeling class turned him on to information systems and business analytics. He said growing capacity to educate more students in this area will help UNH stand out.

“Having knowledge and skills in both information systems and business analytics has been so valuable in my early career,” Newcombe said. “A large challenge for companies is the need to understand not only the technology, but the data coming out. People who can present data to management to help them understand the problem and solutions are in high demand. I feel that my education at Paul helped me build those skills, to be able to use data to tell a story and present it to management to back up a decision.”