Recently, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Karl Schmitt from Valparaiso University. He is the director of the Data Science undergraduate program at Valparaiso University. We had a very nice discussion, and I thought I would pass along my summary.
What are the Details of the Valparaiso Undergraduate Program?
The program is housed in the Mathematics department and it is designed to be fairly interdisciplinary. It consists of four parts.
- Computer Science
- A Separate Focus Area
The separate focus area can be from nearly any other department and is targeted at building some domain expertise. Although not required, a double major is encouraged.
One of the most unique and excited aspects of the program begins during the first year. Students take Introduction to Data Science, which has few prerequisites and serves as motivation for the remainder of the program. Valparaiso partners with non-profits and government agencies to provide the first year students with hands-on experience solving problems for social good. Examples include Meals on Wheels, mapping with the United States Geological Survey, and a child welfare non-profit. Then, the junior and senior students are involved with a capstone project that can be a continuation of the first year project, some other social good project, or students can serve in a consulting capacity to other departments on campus.
What skills Do You expect Valparaiso Data Science Graduates to Have?
There are a few basics skills that make sense for data science: coding, database skills, statistics, and general math. In addition, Valparaiso grads should also know how to talk, write, and create videos about mathematical concepts. Finally, ethics is an essential portion of the program. According to Dr. Karl Schmitt,
I want my students to graduate with ethics related to data science.
To enforce that statement: ethics case studies are required of all students, it is a key learning objective of the projects, and ethics is integrated into all the classes so students understand the importance. Students need to be able to do the hard data science, communicate the results and care about the consequences.
Why Choose Data Science as an Undergraduate?
It is a utility degree that is in strong demand in nearly every field. As companies continue to understand the usage of data, having data skills is going to get increasingly more crucial. Data Scientist are going to be (currently are) in demand for human resources, supply, sales, technology and many other awesome jobs.
Why Valparaiso for Data Science?
There are a number of reasons:
- Good University Size – It is easy to double major and engage with things outside the major, plus disciplines are very connected which allows for collaboration.
- Writing/Communication is Integrated Throughout – Many people can crunch numbers, but Valparaiso graduates can express discoveries. The students get that from the very beginning.
- Projects – All students will have experience and examples of projects to demonstrate.
- Finally, students have an opportunity to turn their homework into something that matters!
Thank you to Dr. Karl Schmitt for the interview and to Valparaiso University for Sponsoring Data Science 101.