Data Science Bachelor's Degree First of Its Kind at University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas will launch a first-of-its kind undergraduate degree in data science in fall 2020.

The program will provide students the chance to study with faculty from three colleges — the College of Engineering, the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Students will take a common set of introductory courses to build the foundations of a data science education and will choose one of 10 specialty concentrations during their junior year. The concentrations include:

  • Accounting Analytics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomedical and Healthcare Informatics
  • Business Data Analytics
  • Computational Analytics
  • Data Science Statistics
  • Geospatial Data Analytics
  • Operations Analytics
  • Social Data Analytics
  • Supply Chain Analytics

In addition to being the first of its kind at the University of Arkansas, the program is unique among data science programs nationwide for its interdisciplinary curriculum. The coursework was designed using best practices from existing programs and feedback from an advisory council of executives from industry.

The data science degree came about in response to a growing need for organizations of all sizes to make sense of complex data sets.

Scott Spradley, chief technology officer for Tyson Foods and a member of the university's Data Science Advisory Council, said the program would benefit businesses across the state.

"With zettabytes of data being created every day in the world today, the need to learn from that data — what that data can tell us and how it can shape us has never been more important," he said. "Using that data to identify trends, patterns and clusters as a means for forward-thinking direction and prediction is critical for any business. The University of Arkansas' decision to evolve a high-performing data science program confirms their commitment to leading our state forward."

Scott Hambuchen, chief information officer at global communications platform First Orion, agreed and said growing data science talent is critical for the state of Arkansas. Hambuchen also serves on the university's Data Science Advisory Council.

"For First Orion, cultivating Arkansas talent in data sciences has been invaluable," he said. "We applaud the leadership, innovation and cross-college cooperation to create a world-class data science degree program. We're committed to growing the data science industry in Arkansas and are thrilled to benefit from the exceptional students the university turns out. First Orion is looking forward to continuing our engagement to grow and improve the program beyond just employment — such as supplying guest speakers, judges for competitions, ideas for projects and capstones, and even some datasets for analysis."

The program is also an embodiment of Chancellor Joe Steinmetz's 2020: Focus on the Future priorities, which were announced earlier this year.

"Three U of A colleges — Fulbright, Engineering and Walton — came together in consultation with industry, philanthropic and government partners to create this pioneering, multidisciplinary, multi-pathway degree that will serve our students and private sector partners well," he said. "The establishment of this degree provides a great template for future collaboration and coordination between our academic colleges and industry partners."

Visit datascience.uark.edu to learn more about the program, including resources for students looking to apply, and information for businesses interested in partnering with the program for projects or internships.

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