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Opening Doors with Poole’s Master of Management, Risk and Analytics Concentration

By Samantha Beavers

First, there was a boom in big data. Then, there was a tsunami of business challenges. And now, as companies respond and prepare for the future, there’s a shortage of data analytics talent and leaders well-versed in risk management.

To fill the talent gap, NC State launched the Master of Management, Risk and Analytics (MRA) concentration. Designed to develop leaders ready to hit the ground running, the program lays a foundation in data analytics and enterprise risk management and rounds it all out with relevant, real-world, hands-on experience.

And according to the MRA program faculty, the program can take students just about anywhere.

“Any kind of leadership position moving forward, no matter the industry, will require the ability to identify and navigate emerging risks. In the next few years, the response ‘I hadn’t thought about that’ won’t be acceptable anymore,” explains Mark Beasley, Poole College KPMG Term Professor of Accounting and director of NC State’s Enterprise Risk Management Initiative.

“The other piece of the puzzle is that most leaders will be expected to have analytical capabilities to use data to support strategic decisions. So this risk and analytics concentration blends two core competencies to equip graduates with a skillset they can bring to any job they want to do – whether that’s leading a big public company or working in a consulting practice,” he continues. 

Launched into Leadership

Today, companies are increasingly integrating risk management into their strategic planning efforts, which – according to Beasley – marks a distinct shift from traditional approaches to risk management.

“Historically, risk management has been associated primarily with legal departments, internal audit and insurance and compliance roles, and it’s been divorced in some ways from a company’s strategic initiatives,” Beasley explains. “It’s as if the people doing risk management were on floor four of the office building while the people focused on strategy and future business ventures were in the penthouse – and they never even talked. But things have changed.”

Evaluating risk in order to inform a company’s next strategic move has become more commonplace in recent years, and if organizations weren’t already headed in this direction before, COVID’s massive global shutdowns and ongoing supply chain challenges forced their hand.

“Businesses now realize that they have to think about risk in the context of what they are trying to achieve. They’re also learning that it’s a lot easier to think proactively about risk than it is to dig themselves out of a hole after the risk comes to fruition,” Beasley explains.

According to Ericka Kranitz, director of the MRA concentration, this shift means that a skill set in risk and analytics is a solid foundation for any career.

“Companies in every industry need to consider what they want to do and what risks might impede their success, and having leaders who can help them be more methodical and bring in data insights to either solidify their thinking or help them change course is extremely valuable,” Kranitz says. 

“Leaders who can think critically and parse through the relevant data can challenge the status quo, empower a company’s visionaries to ask the right questions and steer the organization in the right direction. That strategic mindset doesn’t limit you in any way – and it’s never going to go out of style. People who are skilled at thinking strategically using risk insights can do anything,” she continues. 

Endless Opportunity

While the degree can launch graduates wherever they want to go, Beasley and Kranitz note that there are a handful of roles that MRA graduates are particularly well-suited for.

MRA graduates will be well-positioned for innovation roles, strategic planning and forecasting, operations management, risk advisory services at large consulting firms and model risk governance at more sophisticated companies engaged in data modeling.

And in more regulated industries like banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, utility and healthcare, there are a number of potential career opportunities with a more specific risk lens, such as regulatory oversight, compliance and internal audit. 

“There’s a significant demand for this type of talent, especially here in North Carolina. Between the Charlotte metro area and Research Triangle Park, we have a wide variety of industries that are heavily regulated,” Kranitz says. “We also have a number of entities in technology and innovation, and as more companies like Apple establish a presence in RTP, the demand will continue to increase.”

And whether students are just a step away from the role of chief risk officer or still learning the ropes in an entry-level position, Poole’s MRA program will help them take the next step.

“Maybe they’re trying to get to top leader. Maybe they’ve been at their company for five years and they want to move to middle management in operations, marketing, geographic responsibility or product line responsibility. Maybe they just want to do their job better. Whatever their career goals, this degree can get them there,” Kranitz says. 

A cut above

In addition to its innovative curriculum, Poole’s MRA program also offers students access to world-renowned industry experts and thought leaders – allowing them to gain an unparalleled education to fast-track their career.

“Though risk and analytics is starting to trend, NC State is ahead of the curve. We’re very unique in that we started the ERM initiative, our thought leadership center for risk management, back in 2004. Other universities are just beginning to pick it up, but we’ve had these types of courses on the books for more than 10 years,” Beasley explains.

“NC State has built a well-known, established brand around this. People come from all over the world to do our workshops and hear from industry experts at our roundtables. There’s really nothing else that compares,” Kranitz adds.

Additionally, the program is laced with a number of hands-on experiences and exposure to practical tools to help graduates stand out from the crowd.

“Our graduates walk away with a toolkit loaded with technologies that a lot of other people aren’t going to have. They’ll be exposed to analytical tools like Python, Monte Carlo and predictive analytics. They’ll participate in a unique practicum experience at the end of the program to address a real-world business challenge. And they’ll learn how to leverage enterprise risk management to navigate complex global issues like climate change,” Beasley says. “These are things they can carry with them into any kind of role to accomplish good in the world.”

This post was originally published in Master of Management Risk & Analytics.