The Master of Science in Applied Analyses and Decision Making is a 20-month-long, part-time program, including 16 months of coursework, followed by four months of independent study on a Master’s thesis. Three of the four 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. The fourth course, designed expressly to help you hone your research skills, is held only in the first two semesters. 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 Applied Analyses and Decision Making 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)
Research Methods (4 units)
In this course, offered only in the first two semesters, you will learn the methods of independent research, including study design and the R language and data analysis toolkit. You will explore a wide variety of case studies requiring you to sharpen your skills in gathering and analyzing evidence, applying concepts from the other three courses, and making practical and defensible decisions. These cases cover real-world challenges related to malnutrition, water allocation, the use of economic sanctions in international relations, computer-assisted medical diagnosis, and much more. In the second half of the spring semester, you will present initial plans for your proposed thesis project, assigning accessible readings for the rest of the class, so that other students may follow and critique your presentation.
Master’s Thesis (4 units)
During the four 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 core of the program is three intensive courses. These courses differ from standard university courses in several ways. First, the primary goal of each is to learn and integrate Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs). Second, each course illustrates these HCs with a wide range of content, helping you to 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 three core courses are:
The content used in each course is guided by a set of Big Questions. We adopted questions that are globally relevant, very difficult to answer (and hence required deep analysis and consideration before making decisions regarding them), and which touched on issues that affect students’ lives. In the four courses, you will often be asked to consider how to analyze these same questions from different perspectives. These Big Questions serve to integrate the material and give you experience using concepts in real-world contexts.
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.