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APSU's PSM program produces first graduates

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a quiet, sunny morning in late July, Cara Upton stood in the nearly empty Maynard Mathematics and Computer Science Building, on the Austin Peay State University campus, and found herself unable to keep from smiling.

“It’s really exciting to be one of the first students in Tennessee that has been educated in this field,” she said.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On a quiet, sunny morning in late July, Cara Upton stood in the nearly empty Maynard Mathematics and Computer Science Building, on the Austin Peay State University campus, and found herself unable to keep from smiling.

“It’s really exciting to be one of the first students in Tennessee that has been educated in this field,” she said.

At 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, Upton and three other students—Cory Keller, Austin Siders and Aaron Taylor—will become the first graduates of a new APSU program that combines science, mathematics and business—the Professional Science Masters (PSM) program. The program, which first admitted students in 2013, is the only PSM graduate program in the state to offer concentrations in Predictive Analytics and Database Management and Analysis.

“I was looking for an advanced program at a master’s level that combined statistics, business, theory and application,” Upton said that morning. “The Professional Science Masters is not only supposed to be designated for your science and math background, but it’s also supposed to incorporate communications, business, law and ethics.”

The PSM seemed like a perfect fit for Upton. She has a talent for mathematics, particularly statistics, and she’d earned her undergraduate degrees in accounting and finance at APSU. The PSM appealed to her interests, while also allowing her to stand out among the glut of MBA graduates flooding the job market. In 2012, around 200,000 people earned MBAs from schools across the country.

“The PSM combines graduate study in the sciences and math with a business background and applications,” Dr. Bruce Myers, chair of the APSU Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, said. “We’re hoping that it’s a new niche we can get in as we move forward.”

PSM programs first appeared on a few college campuses in the late 1990s, thanks to funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and a recent article in the journal Science reported, “PSM graduates are finding work, and it’s mostly well paid.”

Siri Carpenter, author of the Science article, wrote that “employers in industry, the nonprofit sector and government are clamoring for employees with advanced training in science and mathematics and professional skills in areas such as management, marketing, communication, regulatory affairs, intellectual property and business ethics.”

Upton, who is graduating with a dual concentration in both predicative analytics and database management and analysis, found this to be the case. In July, while still a student in the program, she accepted a position with iVantage Health Analytics as an Informatics Healthcare Analyst.

“I’m very excited to be working in a role that I was trained to fulfill,” she said.

She’ll start work later this month, but first, on Friday, she’ll walk into the APSU Dunn Center, dressed in a cap and gown, and join her three classmates in the program’s inaugural graduating class. 

“The four of us are pretty close,” she said. “As data scientists, you have to be able to work as a team. Our program not only focused on the individual aspect of it, but we also had multiple group projects. Our chairs wanted to make sure when we graduated that we were part of that team effort that the industry is demanding. That’s really what they’re looking for in data scientists now—somebody that can communicate with everybody, ranging from entry level employees to top executives to clients.”

More information on APSU’s PSM program is available online at http://www.apsu.edu/csci/psm-information.