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PLU introduces new data science major to meet growing demand in data-driven economy

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Image: Students work on group projects in the MATH 348 course titled “Statistical Computing and Consulting,” Friday, April 19, 2024, in Morken at PLU.

Image: Students work on group projects in the MATH 348 course titled “Statistical Computing and Consulting,” Friday, April 19, 2024, in Morken at PLU. (PLU Photo / Sy Bean)

May 6, 2024
By MacKenzie Hines
PLU Marketing & Communications

PLU officials recently announced the launch of a new data science major, which will commence this fall semester. This strategic addition responds to the escalating interest among undergraduates in coursework dedicated to data science and analytics.

The highly collaborative mathematics and computer science departments will jointly administer the new major. Beyond physical proximity, these two departments share a profound connection that exemplifies interdisciplinary collaboration that prepares students for the challenges of tomorrow by offering them a comprehensive understanding of how mathematical theories and computational methods intersect to tackle real-world challenges.

The data science program will provide students with essential analytical tools and techniques for extracting meaningful insights from data, enabling them to extract valuable insights from data with precision and insight.

“In this era of data ubiquity, there is a high demand for graduates who major in data science,” said program director and assistant professor Jeff Caley. “Our program equips students with robust technical skills while also fostering a commitment to ethics, social responsibility, and conscientious practice.”

The program’s student learning outcomes will foster critical thinking, communication, and practical use of math and stats. Students will excel in data through projects, fostering innovation and adaptive problem-solving.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 35 percent growth in data science jobs from 2022 to 2032, outpacing the average for all other fields. With approximately 17,700 annual openings for data scientists projected over the next decade, the demand for skilled professionals in this field is undeniable.

Assistant Professor N. Justice, assistant director of the data science program, believes PLU is uniquely equipped to respond to the nation’s growing demand for data scientists. “PLU’s mission and curriculum invites students to grapple with complicated issues of inequalities in our society. This means Lutes are remarkably well-suited for becoming the kind of data scientists that the world really needs—data scientists who remain diligently mindful of potential impacts on those who are not in positions of power.”  She adds, “The world doesn’t just need more data scientists; the world needs more Lute data scientists.”

The Bachelor of Science degree in data science comprises 64 credits, encompassing a comprehensive blend of data science, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and interdisciplinary coursework. By fostering critical thinking and ethical awareness, the program equips graduates for success in diverse career paths and academic pursuits.

PLU’s commitment to addressing societal inequalities is deeply embedded in its mission and curriculum, making Lutes uniquely equipped to tackle the ethical complexities inherent in data science. The addition of the data science major reflects PLU’s commitment to preparing graduates who can responsibly address societal inequalities through interdisciplinary collaboration.