New College Launches Cutting-Edge Applied Data Science Program

Guest Correspondence

Image from Pixabay

For young people entering the job market—during a pandemic and amid great economic uncertainty—solid, lucrative careers in data science are in extremely high demand. One can

scarcely imagine a better time to introduce New College’s newest offering for students: the Master of Science in Applied Data Science program.

The Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida approved the program on March 23, nearly seven years to the day after New College’s first graduate program was implemented.

“This is indeed exciting,” says Burcin Bozkaya, Ph.D., New College professor of data science and the director of the Applied Data Science program. “The program will have an increased focus on the ‘applied’ nature of data science. And one of the major points regarding the new program will be a tighter collaboration and integration with the industry, as well as with the local community.”

A newly created advisory board, composed of local, regional and national executives and professionals, will add to and enhance existing partnerships. There will also be a new summer internship program in addition to the usual spring practicum, along with industrial workshops and a seminar series, and project-based and real-world data-focused courses.

The new program will allow undergraduates at New College in any major to combine their primary major with a secondary focus in applied data science, and earn both a data science bachelor of arts and master of science degree.

“This 3+2 pathway allows any New College undergraduate in any area of concentration to complete their undergraduate and Applied Data Science Master of Science program in five years, instead of the usual six,” Bozkaya explains.

Tiffany Washington, the director of graduate enrollment and undergraduate strategic initiatives, has been instrumental in recruiting students for the program (along with Data Science Program Coordinator Nikita Bagley).

“I'm excited for what this program means for prospective students,” Washington says. “Now, master's candidates will gain even more hands-on experience through workshops and an additional internship component.”

Zhandos Zhaken, an international student from Kazakhstan, will be among the first students to experience the new program when he attends New College in the fall.

“I chose data science because it is very versatile and all industries need this,” Zhaken says. “It helps companies and institutions create better products, services and advantages over their competitors. Generally speaking, it helps to make people's lives better, and I want to be a part of it.”

And Zhaken is one of many. Even during the pandemic, the graduate program at New College has drawn keen interest from students across the globe. In Fall 2020, 18 students enrolled in the program—a significant jump from the inaugural class of seven in 2015. Bozkaya helped select the students from an applicant pool of 25.

Professor of Mathematics Pat McDonald, Ph.D. initially launched the data science program at New College and designed it alongside Associate Professor of Computer Science David Gillman, Ph.D. Bozkaya took the helm in August 2019.

There are currently eight faculty members—all from various disciplines, including statistics, computer science, mathematics, political science and bioinformatics. There were 14 students in the 2019 cohort, 10 in 2018, 15 in 2017, and seven in both 2016 and 2015. The post-graduate success rates speak for themselves.

“Our program has had a 100 percent placement rate in a data science position within three months of graduation for all students thus far,” Washington says. “Also, the median starting salary is $95,000 for data scientists.”

Behind this success lies the integration of corporate partners, such as LexisNexis and the Allen Institute for Brain Science, with the academic program.

Last year, with help from a grant from the New College Foundation, students and faculty in the data science program partnered with Riff Analytics (a Boston, Massachusetts-based tech company, born from the MIT Media Lab) to research ways to improve virtual communication in online platforms.

These partnerships provide master’s program graduates with a competitive edge. Graduates of the program are thriving data scientists in various industries, including healthcare, environmental and public services, city planning, and tech automation.

“Our program is designed to prepare students to land their dream jobs as data scientists. It prepares students to use their experiences to chart their own career paths,” Washington says. “We are proud to see graduates successfully penetrating the sectors they desire to bring solutions to. This is why prospective students choose our program.”

And we can’t wait to welcome many more of them.

Dr. Donal O’Shea is president of New College of Florida.

Image from Pixabay

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