Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Chris Claterbos, Director of the undergraduate Business Analytics program at the University of Kansas School of Business, Kansas, U.S.
The University of Kansas (KU) is the state’s flagship university, with 28,500 students and 2,800 faculty members across 13 schools on five campuses. The Business School, on the Lawrence campus in northeast Kansas, offers eight majors including Business Analytics.
Chris Claterbos, who set up the Business Analytics undergraduate program, soon will be retiring. From Database Version 4 up until the Autonomous Database in the cloud, Claterbos has been a champion of Oracle technology for over 36 years. He has presented at 17 editions of Oracle OpenWorld. In 2016 he teamed with Oracle Academy, adapting the teaching resources to build a Bachelor’s degree program and ultimately a Master’s program in Business Analytics.
His professional career began in the U.S Navy Civil Engineer Corps, where he was helping build a submarine base when, in his words, he ‘caught the computer bug’ while building out the base central monitoring system. After obtaining a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at KU, Claterbos exercised his computer bug in a variety of organizations as database administrator, chief innovation officer, and Oracle consultant, always in the field of data analysis. In 2014, retired from consulting, he returned to Kansas to develop Business Analytics as a major within the KU Business School.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us a bit about setting up the Business Analytics program?
Chris Claterbos: It goes back to 1984 when I first worked with Oracle Database and grasped the vital importance of data. I got to know various development teams at Oracle and became an expert in online analytical processing (OLAP) and data warehouse operations. I was a Beta tester for various products including the database and Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI). Today, OBI has evolved into Oracle Analytics.
At the Business School, I taught OBI from day one, initially using course materials developed during my consulting work. In 2015, I discovered that Oracle Academy was offering software licenses free of charge, not only for the database curriculum but for the entire Oracle eco-system. That was a serendipitous moment.
We had been pondering whether to create the program with material cobbled together from our own knowledge and from third-party vendors or to go with a mainstream technology player – which for me would have been Oracle. Oracle Academy solved the quandary. Having access to software free of charge was a godsend.
Our Business Analytics courses were put together by blending Oracle Analytics and Oracle Academy’s database design and programming materials into our curriculum. The goal, of course, is to give students a thorough grounding in data-centric decision making. That’s what data science and business analytics is all about.
Oracle Academy: How has the program evolved over the past five years?
Chris Claterbos: The idea of Business Analytics started off as an idea for possible minor in the KU Business School, but in nine months we turned it into a specialized major with a Bachelor’s degree. It rapidly became the fastest growing major in the university – 600% growth over two and a half years! That talks to the universal demand for analytics within businesses. We were the sixteenth university worldwide to offer a Bachelor’s program in Business Analytics, and the first in the Midwest. Five years later we have added a Master’s degree and a PhD. Today many of our peer universities in the United States are following our lead.
With regards to teaching methods, at the outset I found that SQL was being taught using Excel! What’s more, academia was working with flat files for statistical analysis. I said no, that’s not the real world − you need to deal with large data sets and be connected to databases. Oracle Academy was invaluable in allowing our students to manipulate data using the world’s number one database.
In terms of student volume, we started six years back with a class of 12 students, which by 2020 has scaled out to almost 260. Yet until the Oracle Academy Cloud Program came along this year, our servers were hard pressed to manage an ever-growing number of undergraduates hungry for Business Analytics. With access to Oracle Cloud Free Tier, we will have no difficulty accommodating the 500 students signed up for 2021. Oracle Cloud is a major shift.
Faculty-wise, there are four of us teaching the program, but over the next 18 months, again thanks to cloud, we will be ramping up to eight instructors.
Oracle Academy: Do you teach only the analytics or also programming?
Chris Claterbos: Our program focuses on teaching students the skills demanded by employers for data-centric decision making. Oracle Analytics provides the ability to report data out of the database, and that’s critical for businesses. So, statistical analysis comes first. However, in business today, everyone has to be data aware, it’s no longer a nice to have. And since SQL is the language of data, we have as a core requirement that students take or use SQL in at least three classes. We also teach Oracle R for statistical analysis and have started using Oracle Machine Learning as well.
In summary, we are not a coding school, but knowledge of SQL is mandatory. We also use the Oracle Academy program to teach the concepts of logical and physical data design and the performance aspects of the database. Again, we believe that people in business need to understand these basic elements. And it’s in these two areas that we blend in the materials from the Database Design and Programming with SQL curriculum.
Oracle Academy: How are the job opportunities for your graduates?
Chris Claterbos: It’s true to say that we have become a powerhouse in providing industry with graduates with data analysis skills. They are getting plum jobs as data analysts and scientists in major companies across the country, jobs that pay a premium.
The Business School maintains close ties with 125 companies requiring our graduates’ skills, who attend our career fairs, send speakers, and keep an eye open to the talent we are nurturing. In addition, we have a 29-company Board of Advisors, many of them in accounting, finance, manufacturing and consulting. Without exception, these companies state that graduates with business analytics degrees are virtually guaranteed jobs.
Our objective is to make students battle-ready when they hit the streets, and it’s working. I get inundated with emails from alumni out there inside the companies that have hired them thanking me for having taught them just what they need.
Oracle Academy: Overall, how do you rate your journey with Oracle Academy?
Chris Claterbos: Oracle Academy has given us a major leg up and has helped us to deliver a program which, in my opinion, is of a higher caliber than most other Business Analytics programs in the country. We’ve had explosive growth in student intake and, as mentioned, there are great jobs to be had.
Above all, Oracle Academy doesn’t sit still. We get more and more benefit over time, as the resources expand in line with the ecosystem. Now with Oracle Cloud and Oracle Autonomous Database, which has machine learning and artificial intelligence built in, we in Business Analytics couldn’t be happier… not to mention no longer having to worry about servers going down!
Oracle Academy: Well, Chris it looks like you will be passing on a well-developed program. What comes next for you?
Chris Claterbos: Retirement! My wife also is retiring after 25 years at KU and we’ve decided to go cold turkey: no teaching, although maybe some consulting. We intend to relax, travel, enjoy our grandchildren, gardening and other hobbies… kick back the feet and enjoy the rest of our lives. We have hired several new faculty members over the last two years, and I have been getting them ready to take over when I leave. I certainly will be passing the Oracle Academy mantle onto them!
Thank you, Chris Claterbos, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.