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New initiative explores redefining UNC's data science curriculum


UNC's new data science initiative, which includes seven subcommittees on undergraduate curriculum, graduate curriculum, research, community engagement, finance and funding, infrastructure and student services, will focus on revising the University's data science curriculum. 

UNC is in the process of kicking off a new data science initiative, which is focused on changing how the University approaches data science curriculum. 

Over 100 individuals, including undergraduate students, professors and University researchers, will together conduct an initial feasibility study as to how UNC’s data science curriculum can be reprogrammed.

Gary Marchionini, the dean of UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, is the chairperson of the steering committee leading this new data science initiative. He believes this initial feasibility study is essential for coming to a conclusion about how to change the program.

“We certainly would hope in the coming year that we would have some kind of campus consensus about what kind of programs we would like to create,” Marchionini said. “And then those would go through the usual process of approval and definition and then launch in the subsequent years.”

A key part of this feasibility study is the collaboration of the seven newly created subcommittees. These subcommittees are composed of a wide range of University representatives and are centered around undergraduate curriculum, graduate curriculum, research, community engagement, finance and funding, infrastructure and student services.

Jay Aikat, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and co-chairperson of the steering committee, said these seven subcommittees have until the end of November to give recommendations on what their sector would like to see.

“This is not implementation because nothing has been decided," Aikat said. "This is feasibility so that we’re thinking about the various areas that we need to eventually plan out if this goes forward."

Aikat said she believes this data science initiative will encompass the entire University with implications for all majors, rather than just those that typically come to mind when thinking of data science.

“Especially on this campus, if we don’t do it as a pan-campus effort where all of the disciplines are enhanced by this effort, then we are not going to be successful,” Aikat said. “Think about it. What discipline doesn’t deal with data? It’s just data defined differently. It's not just numbers or data sets.”

Luke White, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said he is in favor of the University’s efforts to enhance the data science program because he thinks it will attract a more well-rounded student population. 

“I think it makes us look more dynamic because a lot of kids, especially being from Raleigh, if they want to do engineering, they’re going to State," White said. "But if they want to do business or journalism, then they’re going to UNC. I think if we can kind of re-engineer the curriculum so that our data science program is more appealing to those types of students, it could strengthen our student body.”

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