by TERESA GUZMAN
A new data science major was recently approved and will take effect in the fall of 2024. The new major will accompany the existing data science minor.
“The new major will provide students with a deep fluency in the mathematical, statistical, and computer science underpinnings of data science,” said Associate Professor of quantitative methods Christopher Garcia. “In addition to these foundations, data science majors will also develop strong skills in all the major modern techniques and in applying data science to drive effective decision making. The major will bring more methodological depth as well as more breadth in techniques and applications than the minor.”
Senior Veronica Cagle created a data science major.
“I came to UMW thinking I would do business, but one of my professors, Dr. Stephen Davies, talked to me about data science,” she said. “I intended to have that be my minor, but I really enjoyed Data 101 and Dr. Davies told me I could make my own major—Data Science.”
Cagle created her own major before the official major was approved.
“During my sophomore year I went through the process of creating my own major and officially made the switch,” she said. “I’m really excited that the major is being approved! I hope to see a lot of data majors in the future graduate from UMW! It’s an exciting field to be involved in.”
Students who do not want to pursue the major will still be able to pursue the minor.
“The minor provides students of all disciplines with data science tools that can greatly increase their ability to use data to solve problems and find insights within their disciplines,” said Garcia.
Currently, there is no need to hire new professors, but there may be in the future.
“Our current data science faculty possess all the expertise necessary for the new major,” Garcia said. “However, as the program grows, we will need to bring on additional faculty members.”
Senior computer science major Patrick Murphy has heard about the possibility of the new major since he was a freshman in Data 101.
“I remember Professor Davies mentioning it a lot,” he said. “I’m sure it takes a lot of time and effort to make a new major so it’s been neat hearing about how it’s finally happening.” Stephen Davies has been an associate professor of computer science since 2006 and has been at the forefront of the new major.
The UMW catalog describes the minor of data science as covering “the evidence-based approaches, analytical models, and stat-centered processes critical in nearly every field.”
According to Garcia, there is a two-step process for majors to be approved. The program must first be approved by the University Curriculum Committee, then it must be approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Garcia said that this process is in motion, but the major will likely not be available to UMW students until the fall of 2024.
Murphy believes that this new major will be helpful to students.
“The field features gathering and analyzing data with a mix of programming, statistics, and modeling,” he said. “While it has the most similarities with the math and computer science majors, it’s a very versatile field, and the skills can be applied to any major.”
Murphy said he would have considered the major if it were available to him.
“I’m excited for people that want it to be a major,” he said. “If I was an incoming freshman right now, I would definitely be considering it. I think it’ll be a common double major alongside computer science, but it can also be applied to nearly any field so I hope people decide to major in it.”
Students are not the only ones excited about the new addition.
“I am super excited! Data science is changing the world, and this program will open up a world of opportunities for our students,” said Garcia. “Graduates of our data science minor program are already doing some amazing things today. I can’t wait to see where these new major graduates will eventually go to work after they finish, and how they will impact the world.”