Houghton data science students conducting an economic impact study at the GolfWeek Amateur National Championships in Hilton Head South Carolina.
Houghton data science students conducting an economic impact study at the GolfWeek Amateur National Championships in Hilton Head South Carolina.
Author: Marshall Green
Date: December 8, 2015
Categories: Academics|Business|Computer Science|Data Science|Mathematics

Houghton College has been approved by the New York State Education Department to offer new Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Art degree programs in Data Science, one of the fastest growing and in-demand tech jobs in the job market according to Mashable.

Houghton is also one of the first liberal arts colleges in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in data science and the first Christian liberal arts college to offer any degrees in data science according to Carmen McKell, cofounder of BaseMetrics.

“This data science program is one of the first among Christian or small liberal arts schools,” said Wei Hu, professor of mathematics and computer science at Houghton. “It improves our traditional liberal arts education from version 1.0 to 2.0. It provides a tighter integration of different disciplines by allowing data science to enter other disciplines, such as business and social science, as an enhancer. Data science provides a platform to allow our students to learn how to use their knowledge in different disciplines to solve a particular problem.”

Data science is more commonly known in the business world as “big data,” and job analysts are forecasting a significant growth in the job demand for employees with data science skillsets to “extract knowledge” from the massive collection of online data that companies are gathering, according to a 2014 Forbes article.

According to FICO, there was a 15,000% increase in job postings for data scientists between 2011 and 2012. By 2018, the U.S. will experience a shortage of 1.5 million data-literate managers, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report.

Salaries can range from average entry-level compensation of $52,000 up to $250,000 per year for top-level management positions.

The business department sees the new program as a necessary addition for the business student of the 21st century as technological advances are combining with the rise of social media to produce more data than most organizations can even begin to process into usable information. 

Ken Bates, chair for the department of business and economics at Houghton, commented, “The organizations that will thrive in the future will be those led by people who have an innate understanding of the value to be derived from ‘big data’ and how to gain access to it. Houghton’s positioned perfectly to equip leaders with integrity who know how to make sense of the data enabling all of us to live smarter, safer and healthier.”

Since the college began offering classes in data science, they have hosted guest speakers such as Paul Yacci, data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton and co-author of “The Field Guide for Data Science”; Stefan Heeke, executive director, and Philip Martin, data scientist at SumAll.org; Amanda Stent, principal research scientist at Yahoo Labs; and Michael Lyons, director of analytics for the Buffalo Bills.

Students this past October also had the opportunity to attend the GolfWeek Amateur National Championships to conduct statistical examinations of the events for an economic impact study, a chance for business, data science, communications, bio-chemistry, computer science and math students, in particular, to apply their education to real-world settings. 

This degree will provide the flexibility to customize with courses in a variety of applied areas such as biology, economics, psychology, business, political science, mathematics, communications and computer science. It will also focus on helping students develop the ethical and critical thinking skills needed to deal with complex situations that arise when handling data in the world at large.

“Data science is an interdisciplinary field that draws on several of Houghton’s strong academic programs and prepares students for working in a dynamic and growing field,” said dean of the college, Linda Mills Woolsey. “Our data science major is designed to make the most of critical skills students gain through our core curriculum and to provide a strong basic grounding in data gathering, analysis and communication. We are also proud of the strong experiential learning component of the program.”

Houghton is strategically located close to one of the largest data science communities in New York City. Through Houghton’s new Vocational Opportunities and Career Advisement Center, a continuous supply of internship opportunities are being explored with companies like Yahoo Labs, SAS, Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

Houghton is also launching a Center for Data Science Analytics (CDSA). The founding director of the CDSA, Carmen McKell, commented, “The CDSA can now proceed full speed ahead to create a vibrant data science community at Houghton College, a place where students, faculty and partners work collaboratively, developing data solutions that help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. This will be a place where students learn the vital skill of extracting insights from data by combining both art and science. Our goal is to equip students to become leaders in this rapidly evolving field, especially with respect to the ethical implications of data. Our students will be unique in that they will have both strong analytic skills and a keen sense of how best to use data to improve society as a whole. This is a very exciting time for our growing data science community at Houghton College!”

Upcoming events and programs for students of the new data science program include traveling to the Super Bowl 50 this February, a major NASCAR event and a Mayterm in Cuba. The program will also offer consulting projects, data science conferences and boot camps.

For more information about Houghton’s new data science program, please visit www.houghton.edu/data-science.