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Destler Dodge

Saunders College of Business is undergoing renovations over the course of the summer to construct a state-of-the-art business analytics lab in place of one of the student lounges.

The new lab will provide students with accurate and immersive learning experiences, providing real-time finance data and allowing students to trade on numerous markets via internet-based software.

This change comes with the new popularity of the Master of Science degree in Computational Finance being offered at Saunders. With new facilities and new graduate programs, this news comes with a question: where does this put Saunders in comparison to other schools?

It’s no secret that finding and deciding on colleges is all about competition: rankings, comparisons and hundreds of “Top X Schools to Visit” lists. The flood of information is difficult to sift through. While Saunders is already highly regarded nationally — a top 100 ranking for best undergraduate business programs in 2014, a ranking of 14 for Management Information Systems nationally by Bloomberg Businessweek and a ranking for their online MBA program in the Princeton Review’s “Top 25 Online MBA Programs of 2015” — there’s one thing that every business major gets drilled into his/her head: innovation is everything.

Right from the beginning of a Saunders student’s experience at RIT, they are exposed to real-world and practical scenarios. The Business I and Business II introductory classes go in-depth with studying stocks, starting a business and developing a new line of products. The simulations are about as real as you’d want to present to a group of first years, and the experience is presented as a highlight of a business student’s first year.

Saunders isn’t limited to its presence within national borders. RIT’s international campuses in Croatia and Dubai provide the world-class RIT educational experience outside of our snowy slice of paradise. The Croatia campus, located in Dubrovnik, has high quality Marketing and Finance majors within the business realm, and the emphasis on working within the global business environment makes the studying experience truly unique. The Dubai campus offers the same undergraduate and graduate programs offered at RIT, and being located in such a global innovation center, the experience and resources available to students are astronomical. While Saunders is establishing itself on the global front of education, domestically the resources are ever-expanding.

The business analytics lab will not only take the immersive experience that Saunders is known for providing and enhance it, but it will provide the hardware and software for Computational Finance graduate students to access data in a professional environment on campus. Computational Finance is a unique combination of financial knowledge, data analysis and differential and stochastic calculus. Given the nicknames “Quants” and “Rocket Scientists of Wall Street,” this program is popular for its high salaries, high demand and its ranking as one of the top 50 finance programs nationally.

The feature of this lab that support Computational Finance students are the 12 Bloomberg terminals. Bloomberg Terminals are computer systems that can access the vast financial data goldmine that is Bloomberg Professional service, which allows students to view the data in real-time as stocks and securities are being traded on markets worldwide. This allows Computational Finance students to practice and implement the skills they learn in the classroom with real data. The terminals come with specialized keyboards, which have hotkey commands built in specifically for market trading and financial databases. These functions access market sectors, such as mortgage securities, money markets and currency markets. The ability to quickly access this information is crucial for the tasks of a Computational Finance student.

As Saunders has grown and innovated, it has been assumed that its already-distinguished rankings will reflect the effort that the college puts into its students. Dr. Jackie Mozrall, the dean of Saunders, expressed that the college is evolving to where it needs to be.

“I think we’re positioning ourselves very well,” Mozrall said. “We’re positioning ourselves based on our strengths. We’re a business school at an institute of technology.”

The emphasis of technology in Saunders is apparent: every major has a mandatory information systems course in its list of required credits, Management Information Systems is the largest undergraduate program in the college and the MBA program has two required analytics courses.

“We’re positioning ourselves at the intersection of business and technology," said Mozrall. “Every company is becoming a tech company. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hospital, a bank, Wegmans, Google — they’re all tech companies. I was talking to the CTO of M&T Bank, and she said ‘We’re not a bank, we’re a tech company. We have to compete for talent with all the other tech companies in the country.’ I think it’s important no matter what major you’re in that you understand and appreciate and can work in this technical world in which we live.”

In the vein of harmony between business and technology is the business analytics lab.

“It’s all about data. Accessing data, analyzing data, and being able to use that data to drive decision making,” she continued. Ideally, the lab will be open to all RIT students, but the logistics behind that still need to be ironed out. “I think it comes down to ‘Do we have enough seats?’" questioned Mozrall. We really want it to be a workspace for the students, so why not have it open for everybody? We just have to see how utilized it is.”

The business analytics lab isn’t the end of the list of renovations and improvements set for Saunders. Active Learning Labs — the funky rooms with the rolling chairs and monitors everywhere — will be placed in the first floor rooms that are utilized by Business 1 and 2 classes. These labs will enhance the first year experience and senior capstone projects by promoting group work and providing valuable workspaces and resources for students. Consistently making changes to programs, staff and work space, Saunders shows no signs of stopping innovation and evolution.