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New BC Master's Program for Data-Driven Age

woods college of advancing studies offers ms in applied economics

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (July 2015)Tapping into a growth market and upward climbing trend, the Woods College of Advancing Studies at Boston College is offering a new graduate programa Master of Science in Applied Economicsdesigned to fill a significant demand of employers while offering the kind of innovation that is appealing to professionals who want to advance their careers.

Woods College logo

“We are not only meeting a market need but also preparing students for jobs that they will secure upon graduation,” says Rev. James Burns, I.V.D., dean of the Woods College. “Our program seeks to ensure that students have relevant skills for today's job market, and tomorrow’s too.”

A handful of students enrolled during the program’s inaugural semester this past Spring; the goal is for the program to have about two dozen students per semester (when fully scaled the program will reach to approximately 200 students enrolled at any given time).

Fr. Burns says the degree graduates earn will enable them to bring to the table critical skills in practice-oriented data analysis. “That data analysis would come with a rich sense of ethical responsibility, not only to the field but also in providing their skills to the broader communityespecially to non-profits and similar organizations where some of them will be employed,” said Fr. Burns. “Others who work in the for-profit field will be able to provide pro bono services to the not-for-profits.”

A ten-course program, the Master of Science in Applied Economics can be completed in less than a year and a half, but is designed, like all Woods College classes, to be flexible in meeting the needs of students while allowing them to make an impact on day one in any field for which they choose to use the degree.

 “The new program is meant to train people for a variety of roles in industry, government, policy analysis, NGOs, basically any place where people are supposed to forecast future trends, better understand what’s going on, evaluate impacts of different decisions, and do it in both an intuitive and quantitative way,” said Aleksandar (Sasha) Tomic, program director for the new master's program. “It is an applied program meant for people who want to further their career, whether by switching into new roles or expanding their current roles. We want to have this blend of intuition that allows people to formulate the right questions, and a set of data-driven tools to answer these questions in the data-rich environment that is today’s world.”

Unlike a program based more on theory and research, applied economics includes more every day, real-world applications.

“That is the heart of the program, enabling people to hit the ground running and deliver value immediately to their organization, regardless of which industry they are in,” says Tomic, who holds a Ph.D from Clemson University in applied economics and has been successful at building graduate programs at other universities using a similar methodology.   

Some examples of degree applications: A graduate working for a governmental agency would be able to figure out the impact of a new tax proposal, or forecast economic numbers such as GDP and inflation. In the financial sector, the degree would not only help in forecasting economic variables but also the interplay between those economic variables. Applied economics could be utilized in the healthcare world in looking at what affects re-admission rates, and how that then changes the reimbursement rates hospitals receive from the federal government. In education, looking at and formulating new proposals and programs while evaluating the effectiveness of other programs all fall under the Applied Economics umbrella.

“In just about any industry you can think of or any field you can think of, people can benefit from this program. They can look at a given situation, or look at the environment, see how the incentives are lined up, make a prediction about what is going to happen, and then go to the data and look at whether the desired effects really came through,” said Tomic.

Students will be taught by experienced academics, along with experts who work in the industry.

“Virtually all of our faculty hold doctoral degrees in economics or statistics and are accomplished practitioners,” said Fr. Burns. “Their specializations range from work with the International Monetary Fund, to large consulting firms in the Greater Boston area, to academic departments that shape industry standards. Each faculty member is committed to equipping students with real-world skill sets that are applicable to a variety of workplaces.”

The new graduate degree joins another graduate program offered at the Woods College, the Master of Science in Administrative Studies, which prepares people for leadership positions.  

—Sean Hennessey, News & Public Affairs