New Data Science Minor Builds from Interdisciplinary Foundation
Through strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, data science engages individuals in computing, statistics, interpretation, and communication. The new minor will reflect the strength of a liberal arts curriculum above all else, thanks to the diligence and passion of faculty members across the college.
by Franchesca Schrambling BA ’22
As graduates enter into ever-changing and complicated world, Lewis & Clark has sought to create a curriculum that encourages students to become lifelong learners. Along with the new first-year seminar Words and Numbers courses, the Health Studies minor, and the Computer Science (CS) concentration in cybersecurity, a newly approved minor in Data Science paves the foundation for the future.
Data science plays a hefty role in endeavor and inquiry; it has limitless application potential. Through strong critical thinking and problem solving skills, data science engages individuals in computing, statistics, interpretation, and communication. The new minor will reflect the strength of a liberal arts curriculum above all else, thanks to the diligence and passion of faculty members across the college.
Interest from faculty members who find their fields moving towards these skills, as well as students filling related courses to capacity, has allowed for the new minor to emerge.
“The program is going to be broader than Data Science offerings at other institutions,” Ellen Seljan, associate professor of Political Science and Department Chair, elaborates. “Whereas some schools focus their programs closely on Big Data analysis and computation, our program will integrate a lot of applied coursework in the social and natural sciences, such as humanities coursework that explores the social implications of data and technology.”
Seljan will be teaching the inaugural Introduction to Data Science (DSCI 140) course in the Spring of 2022, and core social impact courses will be available Fall 2023. However, students will be able to declare the new minor this upcoming fall and some will be eligible to graduate with it by Spring 2022.
“I think this fills a niche that was unfilled before,” says Frankie Spurbeck BA ’23, who expects to pursue a Political Science major and a Data Science minor, if their overseas study plans can accommodate for it. “It gives people more freedom to choose majors: if you like data but don’t want math, or if you love English and also statistics, you don’t have to choose.”
Linus Brogan BA ’22, a Mathematics & Computer Science major and Physics minor, plans to add the CS cybersecurity concentration and is excited to see it offered: “Lewis & Clark is making a commitment to being at the forefront of data science education. This is a great, forward-looking move because it is clear that data science is only going to become more important in the future. It will create many new opportunities for students.”
The minor was designed with the potential to balance and bolster the academic interests of students. They will be provided with an approach that reflects the diversity of specializations of data scientists. The priority is not only to prepare graduates for the workforce, but to allow them flexibility and opportunities to engage in their respective fields. The minor will likely draw from existing faculty members for now. Four advisors, including Seljan who is part of the Political Science faculty, will bring together the Mathematical Sciences, Philosophy, and Rhetoric and Media Studies departments.
“Our students are an interdisciplinary lot: double majors are common and students often work on research projects that cross boundaries. Data science lies at the intersection of computation, statistics, and knowledge of some applied field, such as biology.” Peter Drake, Associate Professor of CS and chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences commented. “Our minor includes courses that examine the social and ethical context of working with data. Data science is also a hot topic with no sign of fading. Prospective students want to see that we have it.”
Additionally, Information Technology and Watzek Library’s Digital Initiatives already employ staff members and resources connected to data science. Past events and workshops, such as the Data Visualization contest, as well as the powerful cluster of hardware (named “BLT”), will aid students interested in computationally-intense and big-data research.