UVA Faculty Senate Votes to Establish School of Data Science

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The University of Virginia’s Faculty Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to establish the University’s 12th school – the School of Data Science. UVA’s Board of Visitors and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia must further approve creation of the school.

The School of Data Science will be built on the foundation of UVA’s Data Science Institute, which was established in 2013 as a pan-University institute. That institute will be integrated into the new School of Data Science, with plans to ultimately offer doctoral degrees, undergraduate degrees and certificate programs, in addition to an existing master’s degree in data science. The plan is to open the school this fall.

UVA’s Faculty Senate played a central role in discussions at the University – providing input and guidance – regarding creation of the School of Data Science and how it will collaborate with and enhance other schools and departments.

“I want to thank the Faculty Senate for its help in this entire process to make a strong plan for the new school,” UVA President Jim Ryan said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I’m thrilled about the result. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to create a school that’s a bit different. I appreciate the willingness of so many people to engage with each other and to take some risks for this wonderful opportunity.”

Ryan specifically thanked Faculty Senate Chair Peter Brunjes, Provost Tom Katsouleas, and Data Science Institute Director Phil Bourne.

“A great deal of work and cooperation went into taking a good idea [a School of Data Science] and making it better,” Brunjes said. “This is an excellent example of why faculty governance is so important to the University.”

Data science is an interdisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge and insights from data. The management and analysis of massive data sets has become increasingly important to industry, government, global economies and among non-profit organizations for making sense of and identifying trends within data. As the amount of data grows in all sectors – more than doubling every two years – there is a shortage, nationally and worldwide, of trained data scientists to analyze and interpret data for the benefit of society.

“Employment opportunities in data science cut across all economics sectors,” said Bourne, who will serve as the new school’s acting dean. “It is a wonderful time for newly trained data scientists as the number of potential employees is far less than the number of available jobs. This will continue for years to come.”

Possible jobs for graduates of training programs in the field include data scientist, data analyst, data engineer, research engineer, data science developer, data science engineer, and deep learning research scientist, among others.

Data science sits at the intersection of computer science, statistics, mathematics, information science and other specialized fields, and is used in engineering, all of the sciences, economics, business, sociology and education – virtually every area of human endeavor. To meet employment needs, the School of Data Science will offer training in data analysis, machine learning, statistics, computer science, communication, visualization and most importantly the ethics surrounding data.

While the School of Data Science will have its own faculty and administration and offer doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships, it will work in close partnership with schools, faculty and administrators across Grounds, conducting interdisciplinary research and offering interdisciplinary and data science-specific courses. The school also will fund visiting scholars and partner with the private sector and government agencies.

An academic building for the new school is in the planning stages. In the meantime, the School of Data Science will be based on Grounds in the existing offices of the Data Science Institute in the Dell 1 and 2 buildings, and in a new space being set up on the Corner above Ragged Mountain Running Shop.

The school will operate satellites and centers instead of departments. The satellites will be embedded in other schools to facilitate collaborative data science work in those disciplines, and the centers will be theme-based with focus areas to potentially include data analytics; data visualization and dissemination; democracy; deep learning; education; and ethics, policy and law.

The new school was made possible in part by a $120 million gift announced earlier this year by the Charlottesville-based Quantitative Foundation. Jaffray Woodriff, a 1991 graduate of UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, is trustee of the foundation, and Merrill Woodriff, his wife, is a director of the foundation who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVA.

Find more on the creation of the School of Data Science here.

Media Contact

Fariss Samarrai

Office of University Communications