Lyon College recently approved the addition of a data science major, making it the first private institution in Arkansas to offer this path.
The major will be available in addition to the computer science major. Associate Professor of Computer Science David Sonnier said while computer science and data science overlap in subject matter, they are two distinct disciplines.
Data science, he said, focuses more on algorithms and how they apply to data, combining mathematics and computing.
The program will lay out the essential tools for data analytics and allow students to pursue one of three tracks: science, business and economics or social sciences/humanities/fine arts.
The College opted for data science as a major over data analytics because data science is more interdisciplinary while data analytics is more purely statistical. Data science is wider in scope and thus offers broader insight.
“We see the benefit of the data science major not only as a stand-alone program,” Provost Dr. Melissa Taverner said, “but also one that will be meaningfully combined with a wide range of other majors that are beginning to use data analytics as part of their normal functions and processes.”
She said these majors include business, psychology, English and a host of other disciplines.
“That’s my favorite part of data science,” Director of Institutional Research Andrew English said. “You can have a career in nearly every field.”
Data scientists develop models and algorithms to provide information and predictions to decision-makers, he said. They also report and interpret data, create dashboards and data workflows/pipelines, mine data and much more.
“Data scientists are also some of the main pioneers of machine learning and artificial intelligence,” English said.
“We are very much looking forward to seeing how our students and faculty will engage and develop our data science program in creative and unanticipated ways,” Taverner said.
For the science track, students will take three science classes at the 200 level or above, and for each class, the students will take a data science lab with a course-related project.
For the business and economics track, students will meet the requirements for a minor in business or economics or complete certain classes in business, economics and accounting.
For the social sciences/humanities/fine arts track, students will complete the Digital Humanities course as well as two classes from either the social sciences, humanities or fine arts divisions. For each class, the student will take a data science lab with a course-related project.
The data science major will be available to students beginning with the fall 2020 semester.
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