The College will launch a minor in data analytics this fall, giving students the ability to apply fundamental scientific principles to the analysis of large, complex data sets.
Union joins a growing number of schools who recognize the need to prepare the next generation of students for the data analytics boom that touches a wide swath of disciplines, from English to engineering to psychology.
“Data can help people verify hypotheses and make entirely new discoveries, and construct and deconstruct arguments,” said Nick Webb, assistant professor of computer science. “There is a growing need for students of all disciplines to have the skills and abilities to work with data in their field.”
Webb was among the faculty pushing for a data analytics minor. Several years ago, he and a former colleague realized that they needed to replace the Computational Methods minor, which struggled to catch on with students. The decision to drop the CM minor coincided with the rise in interest in data analytics and data science.
Soon, Webb discovered there were students and faculty already working with data across disciplines, including Tomas Dvorak in Economics, Roger Hoerl in Mathematics and Mason Stahl in Geology. With the support of Strom Thacker, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of Faculty, a group began work on elements of a data analytics minor.
“There’s a rise in the number of classes that use data explicitly in the classroom, or teach techniques for data analysis,” Webb said. “Equally we see an increase in the amount of research using data, both for faculty, and in student thesis work.”