Two schools at the University of Virginia this week announced a unique partnership to explore ways to combine the power of data science with the teaching and practical applications of business.
The School of Data Science and the Darden Graduate School of Business “collaboratory” capitalizes on the explosion of data; the ability to analyze and pull insights from it; and the shared interest in applying that new knowledge to improving how business is taught, researched and applied in actual settings.
The new Collaboratory for Applied Data Science in Business, with the support of the UVA Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, will build on the existing relationship between the two schools and provide new avenues for students, staff and faculty to work and learn together at the intersection of data science and business. In today’s complex and data-driven world, the collaboration aims to advance faculty research and create innovative pathways for new programming and community engagement.
“The application of data science to transformative challenges and opportunities in business is a clear, natural and timely manifestation of our historic mission,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “The creation of a collaboratory with this mandate will provide the vehicle to advance and sustain these efforts within and beyond the University.”
Both Darden and Data Science have championed practical problem-solving through their curriculum and programs, real-world case studies and cutting-edge research. By formalizing their relationship through a collaboratory, they are using the sophisticated techniques and tools available through data science to address the challenges surrounding business ethics and analytical leadership.
“Much of the promise of data science lies in its real-world applications – solving problems and improving lives,” School of Data Science Dean Phil Bourne said. “This partnership furthers our goal to use data science to make a positive impact on business and society.”
Darden Dean Scott Beardsley added, “The collaboratory will also leverage Darden’s and the University’s strong presence in Northern Virginia and the D.C. Metro area, home to some of the highest concentrations of data traffic, data centers and data-related innovation on the planet.”
Bourne said data science is vital to “understanding and improving our world and it is a discipline that belongs to all of us.”
“As a school, we believe in that shared sense of responsibility and actively seek out opportunities to partner and collaborate with colleagues across the University,” he said. “This natural next step in our partnership will enable us to expand educational offerings aimed at building a world-renowned business analytics presence.”
The core of the collaboratory aligns with concepts of mutual interest to the schools and University: ethics and leadership. “It will explore ways in which business leadership is changing in the face of the data explosion and ever-present technologies that enable leaders to use and misuse it. Our goal is to explore how business leaders must lead differently – and ethically – to succeed in a data-intensive future,” Marc Ruggiano, administrative director of the collaboratory and a lecturer in both schools, said.
The Collaboratory for Applied Data Science in Business builds on the foundation of recent partnerships. The two schools launched a successful MBA/Master of Data Science dual-degree program in 2017, and more recently collaborated on a series of Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs in partnership with the UVA McIntire School of Commerce. Darden and the School of Data Science also recently completed a successful pilot run of a research seminar series for faculty and staff.
The word “collaboratory” itself is rooted in UVA history and commonly attributed to William Wulf, a computer scientist in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, who coined the term in 1989. Wulf’s definition of a collaboratory was “a center without walls,” a means for researchers to collaborate and share data and computational resources. This is the University’s second collaboratory; the first was launched in 2019 between the School of Data Science and School of Education.
The Darden and Data Science collaboratory will be led by Casey Lichtendahl, associate professor of business administration, and Eric Tassone, associate professor of data science, who will serve as academic directors, along with Ruggiano. Together, they will lead the collaboratory and engage with faculty from multiple areas of study, including entrepreneurship, operations, finance and marketing, among others.
The collaboratory will kick off with an initial five-year term and will be housed at the School of Data Science’s new building, scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, part of the Discovery Nexus along the Emmet-Ivy Corridor.