UMKC launches new data science institute

Henry Gamber

Students looking to find a career in what Harvard Business Review describes as “the sexiest job of the 21st century” are in luck.

UMKC is launching a new data science program to propel students further into data education with workshops designed to provide hands on research experience in the field.

The Institute for Data Education, Analytics and Science (IDEAS) was created by Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, who saw potential for UMKC to take a lead position for data science education in Missouri.

“I realized UMKC had enormous capabilities and opportunities in data science,” said Agrawal. “There are exciting possibilities here for us.”

The interdisciplinary program is coordinated by Associate Professor of Public Affairs Brent Never, who described the program as having three main “buckets” of activity: teaching, research, and community engagement.

“In the area of teaching, we have a series of non-credit workshops,” Never said. “These are day-long sessions with leaders in this area.”

The workshops would be open to all UMKC students who have an interest in learning basic data skills and getting hands on experience in data science. IDEAS would also partner with other UMKC schools and departments to offer for-credit options in the field of data science and analytics.

On the research side, IDEAS would add what Never’s describes as “a gathering place for scholars to create interdisciplinary teams.”  

According to a blog post post from UMKC administration, the program would allow researchers to quickly capitalize on “promising opportunities.”

Never also spoke about the potential for community engagement the program could have. 

UMKC is seeking to partner with regional businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations to help provide solutions using data. Never suggested the workshop series would be open to the public as well.

Data science is a relatively new field of study. However, data skills are continually in demand in the modern market. 

“Big data is a significant part of decision making in a modern business environment,” business management sophomore Elliott Voelkel said. “It’s best for the university to continue supporting student exposure to data science.”

In an era where fake news is rampant, data education also plays an important role in creating critical media consumers. 

“[Data] can easily be skewed to seem legitimate and without bias,” said freshman computer science major Justice Keen. “That’s why it’s extremely valuable for the average person to know how to question data.”

Whether it’s creating a pathway to gain marketable skills or educating the public on critical data viewing, UMKC students agree IDEAS is a pretty good idea.

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