By Abby Weingarten
Building on the highly successful data science graduate program at New College, two new offerings were recently approved: a data science minor and a 3+2 B.A.-to-M.S. option.
Available in the fall of 2020, these opportunities will allow undergraduate students to either combine a primary area of concentration (AOC) with a secondary focus in data science, and/or earn both a data science bachelor of arts (B.A.) and master of science (M.S.) degree in five years instead of the usual six.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for our undergraduates to gain skills in this burgeoning area,” said Provost Barbara Feldman, Ph.D. “Data science is cutting-edge stuff. It’s something that belongs in a liberal arts college like ours because it’s not just about crunching data; it’s also about asking questions of the data and critically analyzing it. This is a very big deal.”
The new development is due, in large part, to Burçin Bozkaya, Ph.D., professor of data science and the director of the data science graduate program. He hopes to also officially add a full data science undergraduate AOC to New College’s curriculum in the fall of 2021.
“The new data science minor is essentially a smaller version of the data science graduate program. It was designed for students who are maybe in non-technical AOCs who would like to complement their skill sets with data science,” Bozkaya said. “It consists of eight courses to complete over the course of the undergraduate program. And we are aiming to provide data science skills to undergraduates who would like to be a little more marketable in the job market.”
The data science graduate program currently consists of 36 credit hours spanning four semesters. In the fourth and final semester, students implement their skills and obtain industry experience with a paid practicum, working as part of a data science team at one of the College’s corporate partners. The 3+2 option will open up the program to exceptional undergraduates (in any AOC), and allow them to finish both an undergraduate and graduate program in less time.
“This is for high-performing students who want to finish an undergraduate and graduate program in five years instead of six. These will be students in their third or fourth years of undergraduate studies, and they will take eight courses from the graduate program,” Bozkaya said. “Once they complete their undergraduate program, they will also complete the first year of their graduate program. Second-year students can apply around the fall of 2020 but they can inquire about it now to find out what they need to do.”
The data science graduate program at New College initially launched in 2015 under director Patrick McDonald, Ph.D., and Bozkaya took over in August. There are now 15 students in the first year of the program and 10 in the second year, as well as eight faculty members (all from various disciplines, including statistics, computer science, mathematics, political science and bioinformatics). The plan to expand the data science program and open it up to undergraduates began before Bozkaya’s arrival, and it is part of the College’s overarching effort to grow student enrollment.
“In terms of student enrollment, data science is regarded as one of the most desirable skills in the marketplace these days for jobs, so there is a lot of interest and it keeps growing,” Bozkaya said.
And the graduate program has already proven itself to be enviable, as New College alumni have earned positions in impressive data science careers.
“I’m happy to say our students have all gotten competitive data science jobs as soon as they graduated (most got their jobs even before they graduated because of the practicum; they started in the second year of the master’s program and continued to work there),” Bozkaya said. “We have already had so much success and, the more we grow, this could really be a groundbreaking program.”
For more information on the new data science programs, contact Bozkaya at 941-487-4173 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit ncf.edu/academics/graduate-program. A data science information session will also be held at 5 p.m. Thurs. April 16 via Zoom: (drive.google.com/file/d/1bCCjraQwrhxsGdmhSa4DqKuMz151tAeB/view). To access the session, use meeting ID 683 620 968.
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.