Melissa Bowers is an associate professor and Beaman Professor of Business at the Haslam College of Business. She serves as the director of the Master’s in Business Analytics program. “I came to the University of Tennessee 26 years ago because of the people,” Bowers says. “I was really impressed with the depth and breadth of the curriculum and the work that faculty in management science were involved in at the time.”
Through the years, the department continued to impress Bowers with its agility and broadening interests, including analytics. “The data science related skills are becoming more important—students need to understand the concept of big data and its implications on organizations,” she says. “It’s important that they know when a big data solution is needed.”
Bowers has taught courses in optimization, stochastic processes, decision support systems, and supply chain analytics to undergraduate and graduate students. Every year, she teaches the concepts of lean manufacturing, optimization and queuing theory in the Aerospace and Defense MBA program. Her research areas include production planning and scheduling, lean manufacturing, and theory constraints, and her work has appeared in Decision Sciences, European Journal of Operational Research, Interfaces, Computers and OR, Production and Inventory Management Journal and several other academic and professional journals. She’s also worked with organizations such as Milliken, ALCOA, Phillips Petroleum, Oxford Industries, the United States Air Force, Hanes Brands, Inc., Delta Air Lines, Embraer, Boeing, and Cherry Point Naval Air Base, often through her leadership role within the MSBA program’s capstone program.
She sees the field of business analytics as an ever-changing one—and perceives a need for students to develop a diverse skill set. “It’s becoming even more critical that a business analytics professional not simply be able to crunch the numbers, but actually understand the business problem and be able to communicate the results of their findings in terms that any manager can understand,” she says. “Then, the company can reap the benefits of analytics by turning the analytic insight into actionable results that impact the bottom line. If there is a communication gap and the CEOs, middle level managers, or frontline employees don’t understand the analytic results, they will not be able to implement the associated recommendations successfully.”