The first class of Capella University’s Master of Science in Analytics program recently graduated.

Trained to examine data to solve and resolve applied problems, the students were immersed in SAS, R, Python, and Tableau and honed their skills in data mining, statistics, applied analytics, modeling, forecasting, visualization, and more. The program’s coursework was challenging, but these three graduates found ways to balance life and learning.

Here’s what the trio— Murali Sastry, Capricia M. Rucker, and Jared Mehlhaff*—have to say about the program and how they intend to use their education.

*Actual Capella graduates who agreed to be profiled in Capella promotional materials

Q. What advice would you give to new students?

Sastry: Speak up. If you come across issues or questions, the support network at Capella is excellent. The faculty go out of their way to help students.

Mehlhaff: Find an accountability partner. Having someone that matches your work ethic and is motivated can be the difference between your success or failure. Also, remember that you’re in it for the long haul. You won’t get your degree in a few months. But you need to keep making progress.


 Q. How did you stay organized?

Rucker: I created classroom folders and subfolders of my assignments and discussions on my personal laptop to keep up with the weekly assignments. Staying organized was easy do after that.

Mehlhaff: I had specifically set times in the week to read the unit topics, produce discussion posts, write assignments, and reply to the discussion posts. Spreading the work over the course of the week kept me from feeling overburdened.


Q. How did you balance life and learning?

Mehlhaff: I spread the workload over the course of the week so I could actually have a social life while getting my master’s. With some strategy and planning, there are easily enough hours in the week to do everything you want. For me personally, I juggled a full-time job, learning the violin, volunteering on weekends to help high school kids, and even fit in a road trip across America’s heartland all while taking two classes a quarter. It wasn’t easy, but it is possible!
Rucker: It was hard to miss out on special family events and time with the kids. But with the help and support of my family, I was able to make some sacrifices and give up free time to focus on earning my degree.


Q. What Capella support service did you find the most helpful and why?

Sastry: The Career Center was very helpful. The folks there helped me tremendously with my resume and cover letter. They are gifted in understanding career specifics.


 Q. What surprised you most about Capella and your program?

Rucker: I was surprised at how much support I received from my professors, classmates, and academic coach. Capella was referred to me by a former employer, and it was the best decision I could have made during a rough time of job insecurity and financial distress. I remember getting information through email about the new master’s in analytics program. I knew instantly that it would be a great opportunity for me to change my life. When I made the phone call, the enrollment counselors were very informative, and I was able to complete all the steps needed to attend in a very short amount of time.


Q. Have you used the knowledge and skills you gained in your program in your job?

Rucker: I am currently working with a newly formed data analytics team at my current job, where I have been given the opportunity to work on projects related to data mining and manipulation.

Mehlhaff: I’ve become more familiar with Tableau, SAS Enterprise Miner, and the various SAS statistical functions in my daily work. These have definitely led to more insights at my job and helped me think about how I could do future work more efficiently and rigorously.


 Q. What’s next for you?

Sastry: I would like to use the concepts I learned as part of my program to promote data mining for social good. I’d like to help local organizations and communities that cannot typically afford data analysts.

Mehlhaff: I intend to leverage my new degree to become a better analyst and to open opportunities that were previously closed. Having not only the skill set from the MSA, but also the credential, really gives me a leg up when it comes to future options.



Learn more about Capella’s online master’s in analytics program.