Finance Professor Returns to Her Hometown Eager to Help Whitman Expand on Importance of Data Analytics

Candace Jens

Assistant Professor of Finance

  • Faculty

Data analytics is increasingly important to business. We are living in a world with so much incredible data available to us, and it is valuable for us to teach students how to turn this raw information into something that is useful in business.

Assistant Professor of Finance Candace Jens loves puzzles, and, according to her, “Data analytics is one of the most complex and dynamic puzzles going.” Her excitement for this field is palpable, as she begins her second semester as a member of the Finance Department at Syracuse University’s Whitman School, teaching financial analytics.
“Data analytics is increasingly important to business,” she says. “We are living in a world with so much incredible data available to us, and it is valuable for us to teach students how to turn this raw information into something that is useful in business.” 
Jens knows that having a strong background in this subject will help students well into the future. “More and more, people do not stay in the same job for 30 years,” she explains. “Many of our students are likely to work somewhere for five or six years and then decide to move on to something new. If they come out of college strong in data analytics, they have greater flexibility moving forward because the ability to use and interpret data is a skill that is very transportable to almost any career path – whether inside or outside of traditional business fields.”
Her current course is heavily focused on the data tools that are useful in the financial context. “We are looking at things like: What are optimal investments, and how do we find them? How can we use analytics to predict whether someone gets a mortgage from the bank? How can we take really messy pdfs and spread sheets of data and transform them into one picture that anyone can easily understands,” she explains. “And, these questions overlap with other disciplines. Take the question of who is getting a mortgage? There are some real equity problems in that area that not only cross over into other areas of business but also politics, law and more. It’s not just a finance concern; There are so many applications for analytics.” 
Earning her undergraduate degree at Niagara University, she received her master’s degree in business analytics and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. In joining the Whitman School, Jens marks a return to Central New York, where she grew up cheering for the Syracuse Orange. She is happy to bring her family, which includes her husband and three young children, back to her hometown. Prior to the move, she was an assistant professor at Tulane University, teaching classes of firm valuation, equity investing and econometrics. These topics are also the focus of her ongoing research, and Jens has been published in the Journal of Financial Economics and the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis. 
“It’s surreal to have grown up in Syracuse and have the opportunity to come back and join the Whitman School,” she says. “It’s so rare for professors to be able to have the opportunity to return home and find a place with the classes they want to teach and the research they want to do. Typically, professors end up half way across the country --  or even the world.” 
Her research in firm investment and environments holds a special interest to her as a Central New York native. As a child, she remembers “watching the death of manufacturing” and how that impacted many around her. 
“My friends’ parents were losing their jobs. In second grade, my best friend’s family had to move away, and I didn’t understand that. Companies were leaving for the Carolinas and other places, which left a huge hole in Syracuse’s economy,” she explains, noting an interest in how the Micron investment in this area will play out over time. “When a firm’s investment is successful, it’s good for everyone – employees, shareholders, the community. But, it doesn’t just happen overnight. There are a lot of factors that play into whether something like this succeeds, -- including the statistical tools you need to build these environments -- and I’m interested in seeing how it unfolds.”
After completing her first semester, Jens is impressed with both the classroom skills the soft skills that Whitman provides to its students, as well as the accessibility of education to all students. “I was drawn to Whitman because it takes it very seriously that no one falls through the cracks,” she says. “It’s the culture here to meet students where they are and help them succeed both academically and personally. I wouldn’t want to teach in a school where that wasn’t important.” 
“And, of course, I’m thrilled to join the Whitman School at a time when it is in the middle of a big expansion in the area of data analytics,” she says. “Students are very excited about this area of study and clearly want more of it. I intend to help make that happen.” 

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