The Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Analytics prepares students to make impactful and strategic business decisions in a quickly evolving field. Program director Wes Pollitte explains how St. Edward’s gives its graduates an edge.
Why was the Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Analytics created?
During the past decade, company leaders have realized they can analyze their web data to determine what messages are resonating best with audiences. What started out as a specialty pursuit has now become ubiquitous with most understanding the advantage of using analytics.
The current demand for skilled employees who know how to do digital marketing is exceeding the supply. It’s one of the fastest-growing industries. Some companies are hiring statisticians to work in this area because they know math – but they don’t know marketing. They run the numbers and hand them to the marketing staff for making the marketing decisions.
We launched our program in 2018 to educate more professionals who understand the complete picture of the data, the analytics and the marketing strategy.
Digital marketing and analytics encompass art and a science, right?
That’s a good way to put it. The math is the science. The art is the managerial intelligence of knowing how to apply the numbers – how to take this science and put together a marketing campaign. How to understand what the numbers are saying about what is going on in the consumer’s head and why.
The ideal skillset is knowing combination how to do the statistics, interpret them and use then make business decisions. You understand the numbers, but you also understand what they mean.
With technology constantly changing, how does a professional in this field stay current?
Our students get plenty of hands-on experience with software programs. But we’re constantly evaluating whether there are new, better, more relevant ones to learn. We replace programs that aren’t as widely used. We’re continuously updating courses and assignments.
Our students do become familiar with multiple systems, but more importantly, they learn the process of how to solve a statistical problem. They understand how to ask questions and get answers using software. The technology will change, but if you understand the methodology, you’ll be able to adapt.
As a mission-driven institution, St. Edward’s focuses on educating both the mind and the heart. In a numbers-oriented field like analytics, what is the role of the heart?
If I’m a manager operating exclusively from a “mind” point of view, my decisions could be based only on maximizing profit. But I don’t have to make decisions this way. That’s not an inevitable byproduct of analytics. The “heart” perspective asks, “What do I do with this analysis that is ethical, that keeps my business running, and that has a social-good component that ties into my profits?”
Another of the values expressed in our mission statement is the dignity of the human person. Our students think about solutions that consider profits as well as the wellbeing of employees, customers and the environment. They really appreciate that we are grounded in the mission and that we emphasize ethics.
The ideal skillset is a combination of knowing how to use statistical methods, interpret them and use them to make business decisions. You understand the numbers, but you also understand what they mean.
What are the ethical issues that a person in this field needs to consider?
When you’re doing analytics, you have some degree of power. Not everybody knows how to read the numbers and make sense of them. You have to keep in mind that, as an analyst, you're viewed as an expert – and you don’t want to abuse the trust people have placed in you.
There’s an aphorism that, “If you do enough analysis, you can use statistics to get any answer you want.” But it’s not ethical to massage the data to generate a particular answer, or to mislead or manipulate people with the numbers.
We talk with our students about scenarios where this might happen. A client might want to see certain results that just aren’t supported by the numbers. Or your boss might want to justify the launch of a new product – but the demand isn’t really there. Or you might benefit somehow from the launch of that new product. But you have to maintain your ethical compass and provide only factual and accurate information.
Who is a good fit for this program?
We have students coming directly from undergraduate programs who want to earn the master’s to augment their skills. As a result, we even offer current undergraduates at St. Edward’s the opportunity to experience graduate classes in popular courses such as Social Media Marketing and Digital Marketing Fundamentals as they near completion of their undergraduate degree.
The other group includes professionals with several years of experience who want to advance in their career or make a career change into digital marketing because they think it’s interesting and know it’s a growing field.
The common thread is that our students are inquisitive. People who go into this field like to work through data and figure out an answer to a problem. If you’re really good at solving puzzles, you’ll like this.
What do students gain from St. Edward’s location in Austin, when the program is online?
We benefit from the reputation the university has built in the community and from our connections through The Bill Munday School of Business advisory board. All of our faculty have industry experience – in cybersecurity, ecommerce, marketing leadership, social media management and analytics. This helps keep the program fresh, because the people teaching courses know what’s happening in industry. Faculty work with companies staying connected and connecting our current and future students. It benefits our students, who build their network with these faculty.
A number of our students started interning at a company or working part-time while they were in the program and were hired into full-time positions pretty quickly. Some students from outside Austin have built connections through faculty that led them to move here for an opportunity. Overall, our students have done very well in transitioning into the job market.
In short, what do the students find valuable in the program?
We offer small classes, attention from professors, a grounding in ethics, and hands-on, experiential learning. The key differentiator of the St. Edward’s program is that you learn how to analyze data and you develop the managerial insight to use it in business decisions.