William and Mary creates data science major

aheymann@vagazette.com

The College of William and Mary's Board of Visitors created a new data science major at its meeting on Feb. 8.

Broadly put, data science is getting valuable information from large sets of data; it’s used to target audiences for advertising and to give price comparisons, among other things.

William and Mary started a data science minor in the fall of 2017. Matthias Leu, director of the college’s data science program, said the minor was created because of high student demand.

“When we hung out the shingle that said ‘data science now available,’ large numbers of students stepped up and said ‘I want that,’ ” said Denis Manos, William and Mary’s director for the Applied Research Center and interim director of the Research Institute. “A large number of people said ‘I want it as a major.’”

Leu said since the minor was instituted, 34 students have created a data science major through the college’s self-designed major program.

“And that’s our cue to turn it into a major,” Manos said.

Manos said the new major, which will be offered in the fall, will use many classes and electives that already existed in the data science minor.

“Having a really good major requires significant hands-on experience and individual study and a capstone project, so all of that had to be created but it’s now available,” Manos said.

Manos added the program has been given more funding and will use that to hire more faculty to expand it.

“A lot of students in the social sciences are interested in data science,” Leu said, since it can help transfer historical documents into a digital format.

The program was developed by faculty members in American studies and English, applied science, biology, computer science, economics, government, linguistics, mathematics and psychological sciences.

In addition to student demand, the new major illustrates the institution’s increasing emphasis on developing technology education, which is also a growing focus of the state government.

Virginia’s increased interest in technology education coincides with Amazon’s anticipated move to northern Virginia.

This is seen in the current General Assembly budget proposals and legislation, where the House and Senate are looking at giving public institutions $8.3 million in grants to help produce more workers for the technology industry.

William and Mary will be competing for this money with Virginia Tech, which is building a Innovation Campus right by the new Amazon headquarters.

However, President Katherine Rowe said the college isn’t changing to fit the state’s focus on technological education, rather William and Mary’s interests simply merge with the state’s.

Other resolutions

The Board of Visitors also:

  • Created a doctor of judicial science program for the law school
  • Approved the creation of a bachelor arts program in linguistics
  • Passed a resolution honoring coach Jimmye Laycock for 39 years of coaching

Want to learn more?

To learn more about William and Mary’s data science major and minor visit wm.edu/as/charlescenter/academic-programs.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
84°