The Master of Science in Decision Analysis is a 21-month-long, part-time program, including 16 months of coursework, followed by five months of independent study on a Master’s thesis. Three of the five Core Courses are based upon the undergraduate Cornerstone courses, but recast at the graduate level to focus on the types of analyses and considerations needed to support complex decision-making. A fourth course focuses on statistics-based inference, applied to case scenarios from diverse fields, and the fifth course is designed expressly to help you hone your research skills. With help from a carefully chosen thesis advisor, your independent Master’s thesis work will culminate in an original research project in which you will identify an issue, analyze it, and defend a specific decision, or decisions, addressing the issue.
The Master of Science in Decision Analysis program leads bright, highly-motivated post-Bachelor’s students to acquire competencies that allow them to analyze complex real-world problems from multiple perspectives, to present options for addressing these problems, to exercise sound judgment in choosing among the options, and to establish criteria for monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of the decisions that are implemented. This program is guided by KGI’s focus on innovation and engagement, as well as its specific emphasis on translation of knowledge for the common good. We focus on developing ways that the material can be used in practical applications.
After completing the program you will be able to analyze and use data effectively in a variety of fields, to compare options available in any given decision-making scenario, and to establish metrics and systems to evaluate and make intelligent decisions. These skills are useful in many professions, ranging from law and business to the life sciences and medicine, and are also central to most academic pursuits. The ability to analyze and make intelligent decisions touches virtually all types of human endeavors.
The curriculum is empirically oriented and based on understanding and assimilating the Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) that underlie critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction. Course requirements are as follows:Core Courses (24 units)
Analytical Focus Courses (8 units)
Two additional courses focus on practical, hands-on skill development related to data analysis and research design. One emphasizes computational and information-based decision-making, including statistical inference using the R platform and programming language. A second course covers the methods of independent research, in which you will learn quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods study design, and continue your use of the R language for data analysis. In both of these courses, you will explore a wide variety of problem domains, including public policy, business and industry, and the sciences, requiring you to sharpen your skills in gathering and analyzing evidence, applying concepts from the other three courses, and making practical and defensible decisions. Specific case studies cover topics such as malnutrition, the use of economic sanctions in international relations, computer-assisted medical diagnosis, water allocation, and much more.
Master’s Thesis (4 units)
During the five months following the conclusion of your coursework, you will complete a master’s thesis. This will require you to conduct an original research project, with the advice and guidance of a Thesis Advisor. Specifically, you will identify an issue, research the existing literature, and conduct original research and analysis to justify making a specific decision — or decisions — that bear on the issue. The work must demonstrate effective use of the skills you learned in the coursework but the topic is open, subject to approval from your advisor. The thesis will be graded at graduate-level standards by the Thesis Advisor and another faculty member who was not involved in the project. The project must include:
The content used in three of the five Core Courses is guided by a set of Big Questions. We adopted questions that are globally relevant, very difficult to answer (and hence require deep analysis and consideration before making decisions regarding them), and which touch on issues that affect students’ lives. In these courses, you will often be asked to consider how to analyze these same questions from different perspectives. The Big Questions serve to integrate the material and give you experience using concepts in real-world contexts.
All of our courses differ from standard university courses in several ways. First, the primary goal of each is to learn and integrate very explicit learning objectives. These are all described in course syllabi, attached to each class session, and your progress on each one is available via an online dashboard. Second, each course illustrates these learning objectives with a wide range of content, helping you to generalize your skills and learn to analyze situations and alternatives that underlie intelligent decision-making. Third, each course is a seminar. As such, they all focus on active learning, not passive reception of information. The five courses are:
The Master’s Thesis is expected to represent a substantial body of work, of publishable quality. It has two components. First, you must identify and characterize an issue that you can analyze. Part of this process requires a literature review of relevant materials. Second, you must use the tools acquired in the coursework to identify key decisions that must be made to address the issue. You must use material learned to justify making specific decisions. Typically, students will obtain data sets that they can analyze, but in some cases purely qualitative analyses will be acceptable. In all cases, however, you must use appropriate analyses to justify proposed decisions in detail.
You will be assigned both a Thesis Advisor from the Minerva faculty and an outside reader, who is an expert in the relevant domain.