Beginning fall semester, Pacific University will offer an exciting new major. The university will introduce a bachelor’s degree in the rapidly growing field of data science. It will be a part of the department of math and computer science, but it will serve as its own program. The university’s Board of Trustees approved the program addition during its recent meeting, held March 7-8.

Data science is quickly becoming a popular field, and the university was interested in offering a program in such a useful, developing area. It is an extremely integrated major, with required courses in a variety of different subjects including math, computer science and statistics.

In the first year of the program, students take courses in subjects such as calculus and introduction to programming. In the second year, they study linear algebra and statistics, while in the later years of the program they finally move into the data science courses, like modeling and regression, as well as machine learning.

The university is currently looking for an individual to hire to help teach these data science courses and get the program off of the ground. Pacific’s team is hoping this new professor will have connections to the industry, carrying a current connection to actual projects and also acquiring some academic experience.

“A bunch of us professors are getting retrained to teach some of these courses,” Mathematics professor Christine Guenther said. “I really want to teach the statistics courses, so I myself am going to retrain.”

Part of the proposal for the program outlined the retraining for existing professors to help teach some of the required classes for the major.

Data scientists go into jobs in a multitude of different fields. A new report released by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) says there are currently an estimated 2.7 million openings for data scientists in the workforce. In their careers, data scientists collect, analyze, model and present data to identify trends and solutions relevant to a given topic.

Reception of the new program has been very positive overall. “Without exception, every single person I’ve talked to has been enthusiastic about it,” Guenther said.


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