T6-DM2-1 - An Innovative Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Data Science Program: Pathways and Experience

Difference Makers
Bojan Cukic1 , Douglas Hague1, Mary Lou Maher1
1 University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Abstract— The paper is part of the Difference Makers Track of FIE 2020.

Many institutions of higher learning are in the process of defining and implementing Data Science programs. The emerging field is revolutionizing scientific discovery and many industries.  Broad availability of data sets and emerging analytical techniques for their processing are changing our economies and societies.   While there is a broad agreement about underlying principles in this new discipline, defining data science as a pedagogically independent discipline has proven to be a challenge.

In this paper, we present the university-wide effort that led to the creation of a new undergraduate interdisciplinary Data Science program. In particular, we point to the critical role of inclusive pedagogical design and broadening participation criteria in program development.  Current and projected job market data clearly indicate that data science programs need to expand traditional STEM workforce and attract students with varying backgrounds and degrees or preparation.  Such a focus has led to a broad agreement across our campus regarding the new program and its curriculum.