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Washington State University
CAS Connect November 2016

New degree leads the way in big data

As more and more data is generated and captured, businesses across the Pacific Northwest and around the world have a growing need for skilled professionals who can apply sophisticated data science techniques to address industry needs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, data-related employment opportunities are expected to rise dramatically over the next decade.

vector-data_analytics_webThis fall, WSU became one of only two research universities in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in data analytics and the academic training required to bridge the gap between technical analysis and practical application.

The highly interdisciplinary WSU program includes a strong foundation in computer science and statistical methods paired with expert training in one of eight domain specializations. Graduates will be trained to “speak the language” of both data science and their chosen specialization and will be well-prepared for employment in industry sectors such as manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, retail, healthcare, government, insurance, finance, education, and environmental management.

“It has been a collaborative effort from the beginning,” said Daryll DeWald, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the administrative home of the multi-faceted degree. “With the support of the president and the provost, faculty from disciplines as diverse as chemistry, economics, agriculture, and educational psychology have collaborated with statisticians and computer scientists to create an exceptional program.”

Academic responsibility for students will be shared by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture (VCEA).

Investing in student futures

The curriculum includes hands-on experience managing and analyzing real industry datasets to solve problems, guide decision-making, and make predictions. For example, students might comb through diverse public datasets to improve insurance models, assess real-time customer behavior to optimize supply chain management, or design data-driven maintenance schedules that reduce equipment downtime. Partnerships with industry leaders will provide critical insights on the rapid evolution of big data in the workplace.

“We are excited about enhancing opportunities for students and equipping WSU graduates to meet employer workforce needs both now and in the future,” said David Brown, director of the data analytics program and associate professor of crop and soil sciences.

Faculty affiliated with the program span five colleges: CAS, VCEA, the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, the Carson College of Business, and the College of Education.

WSU Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics

All eight specializations are currently available on the Pullman campus:

  • Actuarial science
  • Agricultural and environmental systems
  • Business
  • Computation
  • Economics
  • Life sciences
  • Physical sciences
  • Social sciences

The actuarial and business tracks are currently offered at WSU North Puget Sound at Everett and will be expanded to the WSU Global Campus next fall.