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National Science Foundation Grant Helps Saint Mary’s Launch the Center for Business Analytics

May 23, 2024

University Services BIDA

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers business and technology programs that position students for success for years to come. Thanks to a recent National Science Foundation grant, our university is setting itself apart as a hub for innovation and inclusion by establishing the Center for Business Analytics.

Founding the Center will expand our university’s role in preparing the next generation of tech-savvy business professionals. Michael Ratajczyk, director of our online M.S. in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics program, said the Center will go even further by empowering students from diverse backgrounds to thrive in business technology:

“By providing equal access to educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds, the Center not only contributes to their individual success but also fosters a more equitable and inclusive society overall.”

The Origin of the Center for Business Analytics

Saint Mary’s is creating the Center for Business Analytics in part to accelerate innovation in Minnesota and expand access to workforce development programs. Our university has extensive experience in these areas, as we prepare students for modern business roles via an ecosystem of programs spanning data science, data analytics, and business analytics.

“With over 100 students studying locally in Winona, 20 students in the bachelor completion program in Minneapolis, and over 200 graduate-level students across various related programs, our university demonstrates a significant commitment to educating students in this field,” Ratajczyk said. “As these programs gained traction and demonstrated their excellence, it became increasingly clear that Saint Mary’s possessed something truly exceptional.”

Seeking to capitalize on innovations that would take our educational ecosystem to the next level, we began working to create the Center for Business Analytics. During the planning stages, Ratajczyk envisioned it “as an epicenter capable of seamlessly connecting curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular opportunities.” Knowing that launching the Center would demand a substantial investment, we pursued an Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) grant from the National Science Foundation to make it a reality.

According to the National Science Foundation, EPIIC grants are awarded to “institutions interested in growing external partnerships and building innovation capacity.” Ratajczyk noted that securing the grant was an extensive effort, requiring significant online training and cross-country travel to network with peers involved in the grant. During this process, we highlighted the benefits of our programs to the National Science Foundation, which Ratajczyk believes contributed to our university winning the grant:

“The emphasis on cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence and its integration into society, aligns with the goals of the EPIIC grants and likely contributed to Saint Mary’s being recognized for this prestigious award.”

Our Primary Tasks for the Center for Business Analytics

The National Science Foundation grant will provide Saint Mary’s with $400,000 over three years, which we’ll apply toward founding the Center for Business Analytics. At the outset, the Center will focus on completing three tasks:

Task 1

Develop a robust, industry-centered workforce pipeline in emerging technologies, benefitting regional employers, as well as students who gain experience in high-demand, lucrative fields.

Through the Center for Business Analytics, our faculty can access insights on emerging technologies and best practices for modernizing courses to the needs of companies today. While these efforts will enhance our Business Intelligence and Data Analytics programs, the Center plans to support instructors who teach courses in other disciplines, such as cybersecurity and geographic information science.

“Students will see new technology in the classroom over time as they engage with curriculum updates made possible through collaboration with industry,” Ratajczyk said. “These new opportunities are designed to prepare students for new technology and its healthy use.”

What’s more, the Center is engaging organizations wanting to upskill their employees through workforce development programs. Ratajczyk envisions the Center as a partner for organizations needing to harness the latest innovations “to stay competitive and relevant in a constantly evolving landscape.”

Through this work, the Center will help students gain skills for high-demand careers with impressive earning potential. For instance, the median salary for business intelligence analysts in Minnesota was $114,630 in 2023, with employment projected to grow 26% from 2020 to 2030.

Are you ready to reach your full potential in your Business Analytics career?


Task 2

Advance industry-relevant research on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, identified in partnership with industry partners and conducted by Saint Mary’s faculty, including joint research projects with industry and other university partners.

Through the National Science Foundation grant, the Center has resources for researching ways to advance innovation in Minnesota and beyond. These initiatives will include partnerships with other universities, bringing together diverse perspectives on leveraging various types of technology, such as artificial intelligence, GIS, and supply chain management tools.

In addition to exploring innovations, the Center will lead community outreach efforts to promote diversity in business analytics. By collaborating with local organizations and government agencies, Ratajczyk believes the Center will help “ensure access to resources and support services, fostering inclusivity and empowerment within these communities via targeted outreach programs, specialized training initiatives, and strategic partnerships.”

The Center is currently establishing an advisory board to guide the formation of partnerships with local organizations. This process will help identify organizations interested in sharing resources and expertise, which Ratajczyk said will make “a significant difference in empowering our community and advancing our mission.”

Task 3

Become a recognized hub for thought leadership and cross-institution collaboration in business analytics and technology.

Ratajczyk expects the Center to play a key role in advancing how organizations leverage business analytics. “Our significant opportunity lies in aiding companies in effectively integrating new technologies and supporting them in educating their employees on these innovations,” he said.

In many ways, Saint Mary’s is already recognized as a leader in this space, helping us attract business and technology leaders to our programs. As Ratajczyk noted, our current Business Intelligence and Data Analytics students get “opportunities to engage with industry experts for research, co-ops, internships, project consultation, and guest speaking events both in-class and online.”

That said, Ratajczyk anticipates the Center will raise Saint Mary’s profile even higher, making our university “a dynamic hub of innovation and collaboration in the field of data science.” And our presence in Minnesota could serve us well in becoming that hub.

In 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce designated Minnesota’s MedTech Hub 3.0 as one of “31 inaugural Tech Hubs in regions across the country that show potential for rapid growth in key technology sectors.” So, Silicon Valley isn’t the only engine for innovation — and through partnerships with industry leaders, the Center for Business Analytics will expand how students and companies harness technologies in our state.

Building on Our Roots as a Christian Brothers University

By completing its primary tasks, the Center strives to do more than foster innovation. It also has the opportunity to transform the lives of students in underserved communities by increasing access to career-connected education. In this way, the Center builds on our history as a Christian Brothers university.

“The Christian Brothers focus is on the underserved. Through our expertise, facilities, and student support, our university aims to meet the community and provide custom and open training sessions,” Ratajczyk said.

The Center is developing community engagement initiatives focusing on inclusion in the business and technology sectors. These efforts will include educational seminars and workshops for military veterans and low-income residents interested in gaining business analytics skills. Ratajczyk feels this aspect of the Center’s work will offer benefits across our local community:

“By leveraging synergies between industry experience, industry connections, and pedagogical expertise, the Center ensures that students from diverse backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities that cater to their unique circumstances and aspirations.”

Capitalize on Enhancements Identified by the Center for Business Analytics

Advanced curricula, engaged faculty, and an inclusive environment — Saint Mary’s offers many benefits to students interested in business analytics. Now, the Center is helping our university enhance the student experience even more.

Of course, our online programs already provide advanced training for mastering business technologies. Ratajczyk pointed to our emphasis on experiential learning as a key reason to continue your education at Saint Mary’s:

“Our programs provide students with a comprehensive understanding of not only how to utilize analytics tools effectively but also when and why certain approaches are suitable. By emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, we empower students to become adept practitioners who can navigate complex real-world scenarios with confidence and integrity.”

If that description appeals to you, take this opportunity to develop business analytics expertise in our online Master’s in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics program. You’ll benefit from an ecosystem of extracurricular activities enhanced by the Center for Business Analytics, along with course improvements focusing on AI and big data tools that inform business decision-making in a global economy.

You can customize our online graduate program for your goals by choosing one of three integrated certificates in Business Analytics, Healthcare Analytics, or Artificial Intelligence. After graduation, you’ll have the expertise needed to follow our graduates into operations analysis, data engineering, project management, and other lucrative career fields. Request information to learn more.

About Michael A. Ratajczyk, Ph.D. (abd.), M.A., CBIP

Program Director, M.S. and B.S. Business Intelligence and Data Analytics
Associate Professor
School of Business and Technology

For the past eleven years, Michael Ratajczyk has been working at Saint Mary’s as a Program Director while previously spending 12 years in leadership positions within a multi-national S&P 100 company. In his corporate role, he led teams in business intelligence and negotiation strategy optimization, often traveling to Asia and Europe for customer and supplier negotiations. He also focused on building intelligence-gathering capabilities and improving operations across the buy-and-sell side of organizations.

In addition to his practical experience, Ratajczyk holds a master’s in business and certifications in data science. He is currently in the final term of a Ph.D. program specializing in Artificial Intelligence adoption strategies.

Ratajczyk is highly respected among his peers as an expert in GenAI and related technologies, with a strong interest in AI’s application in society. Recently, he secured a National Science Foundation grant for Saint Mary’s to establish a Center for Business Analytics. The Center will facilitate the development of training workshops and research projects on artificial intelligence adoption strategies for both students and industry partners.