MBA students from the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have served in assistantship roles at Y-12 National Security Complex for years. In 2014, the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics began to cement an even closer bond with Y-12 by helping to fill its talent gaps.
“In addition to pure MBA skills, their leaders were looking for something more in the area of technical skills, in particular analytics,” says Chuck Noon, head of the department. “Y-12 has put in place a lot of sophisticated information systems for capturing data, but they didn’t feel they were able to adequately use and analyze that data to help drive decision-making.”
After discussions between Noon and several contacts at the organization, including senior director Tom Berg and Y-12/UT liaison director Debbie Reed, the department began placing Masters in Business Analytics (MSBA) graduate assistants at Y-12.
“The students get their tuition covered, a guaranteed summer internship and experience throughout the school year working on important, real problems,” says Noon. “It stands out on their resumes and positively impacts their later placement opportunities.”
Since 2014, the number of BAS graduate assistantships at Y-12 has tripled from two to six.
“Once we had a few students working here, various departments started asking for their own assistants,” Reed says. “We increased the number of assistantships in the contract, and then we started hiring them after graduation because we need that analytics skill set here.”
Student assistants work to solve analytics problems across a number of topic areas, including safety and efficiency concerns.
“One project had to do with injury rates,” Reed says. “They were evaluating what the data is telling us about the types of injuries we’re having, what we can do to prevent those injuries and if there’s anything in the data that could be a leading indicator.”
Reed says the partnership is symbiotic, benefitting MSBA students, Haslam faculty and Y-12 personnel. “They’re sending us their best students because they want the partnership to continue and grow, and we’re benefiting from their expertise,” she says.
Meanwhile, students benefit from the real-world experience afforded at Y-12 and the opportunity to work with world-class scientists, engineers and student workers from other universities.
Located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the Y-12 National Security Complex was built as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II and now functions as part of the United States Department of Energy. Today, the complex retrieves and stores nuclear materials, fuels the nation’s naval reactors and performs work for other government and private sector entities.
The Haslam College of Business Department of Business Analytics and Statistics fosters skills in data science at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels. Graduate assistants pursuing MBA, master of business analytics and analytics doctoral degrees work both inside the department and in area businesses.