Professionals Challenge Students with Real-World Problems

Professionals Challenge Students with Real-World Problems

Posted: February 25, 2013

It's time for Matthew Nagowski, a vice president at M&T Bank and quantitative modeling manager for its Treasury Division, to put on his lecturer’s hat. Nagowski is currently teaching a five-week course in Markov Chain Models in Credit Risk Management.

"I really enjoy teaching it," said Nagowski. "I like working with the students and imparting a professional tool kit to those who will soon be entering the work place."

Students can take the class in addition to the 18 required one-credit courses in the professional applied and computational math (PACM) master’s program. Despite the fact that many PACM students are working full time, they are still willing to add electives like Nagowski's course to their workload.

"Students tell me my course is a lot of work, but it's one of the most valuable courses they've had in their academic career," Nagowski said. "That's because they’re getting hands-on experience and applying the concepts they’ve learned to real-world problems."

In the course, students learn to program in SAS, a statistical software package widely used by businesses, to complete a project. "It's not simply a math problem to be solved using a prescribed process,” said Nagowski. "It's much more open-ended, with a world of possibilities, just like the workplace."

Lorena Mathien, assistant professor of mathematics, coordinates the PACM program, which is recognized as a professional science master’s (PSM) degree program by the Council of Graduate Schools. She teaches the "plus" courses—the courses that teach business skills such as communication and project management. Students must complete a total of 30 credit hours to graduate.

"The idea in PSM programs is that students complete the required math or science studies, plus additional business courses," said Mathien. One such course, PSM 601 Project Management for Math and Science Professionals, is available completely online.

Many of the program’s graduates return to the classroom as guest speakers. "They want to come back and contribute," said Mathien, "and they bring their own work experience and insights to our students."

The program benefits from an advisory board made up of faculty members and representatives of area businesses, including executives such as Nagowski. "The program does have active and honest engagement with local employers," he said. "One of my former students is now an employee on my staff."

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