April 8, 2021
A bold new academic offering at Albion College meets the moment of today while forecasting even more need and importance in the years ahead.
Albion’s new major in data science, officially launching in the Fall 2021 semester, innovatively combines a formal degree program in a high-demand field with the timeless liberal arts core curriculum that continues to carry particularly high value among employers across all sectors.
Through 13 units of coursework combining mathematics, computer science and statistics, Albion students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in data science will be sought-after candidates for positions in a wide range of fields. The quantitative analyses and information visualizations regularly provided by data scientists in those fields lead to strategies, responses and other actions that tackle real-life problems such as climate change, economic inequality and social injustice, to name just a few examples.
“Consider the impact of data analysis on the COVID-19 pandemic, past and future elections or any of a dozen other recent news stories—there has never been more data pervading aspects of daily life than there is now,” said Dr. Mark Bollman, professor and chair of mathematics and computer science. “Nor has there ever been such a great need for educated professionals who are adept at processing this avalanche of information and making the best decisions from data.
“Fortunately for Albion and its prospective students,” Bollman continued, “these skills have long been valued in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, which has had particular strength in statistics and statistical reasoning for many years.”
Over the last several years, according to Bollman, nearly all Albion math and computer science students have had their first job or graduate school placement secured before graduation, including in data-science-related positions at EY, Auto Owners Insurance and the Detroit Lions.
Faculty will encourage data science majors to add a minor from another academic department to their overall program, both to maximize their liberal arts educational experience and to attract even more interest from top employers seeing evidence of a specialty or area of expertise.
As an example, "The five largest technology companies—Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook—employ one half of one percent of U.S. employees,” said Dr. Hernan Bucheli, vice president for enrollment management and strategic initiatives. “Albion’s decision to add data science as part of our innovative new program development provides another avenue for our students to break into these high-paying, in-demand careers right after graduation.”
Albion’s creation of a major in data science follows recently announced new programs and partnerships in the areas of accounting, medical and pre-medical education, and political science and religious studies. Additionally, a new minor in data analytics—geared for students interested in working with data in different majors, such as anthropology or biology—is in the latter stages of development by faculty, with plans for it to also be available beginning this fall.
Current Albion math or computer science majors interested in switching to a data science major will be able to do so after consulting with their faculty adviser, according to Bollman, adding that interested transfer students in the majority of cases would be able to smoothly transfer applicable math, computer science and statistics course credits.
The Mathematics and Computer Science Department will also work closely with the Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement to identify students interested in data science who may need support in becoming acclimated to the curriculum.
“We need to make sure that any Albion student can succeed in this program,” said Dr. Ron Mourad, interim provost and professor of religious studies. “Some students don't discover their interest in and aptitude for math or computer science in high school, and that's okay. With both classroom skill development and support from expert mentors and student peers in the Cutler Center, data science at Albion will be accessible to all.”
For more information on the bachelor’s degree program in data science at Albion College, contact the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at 517-629-0361. Full details on the data science major, including course descriptions, prerequisites and more, will be available in Albion’s course catalog update for the 2021-2022 academic year, to be published online this summer.