Data Science approved as newest major at Luther College

Touted as the "sexiest job of the 21st century" by Harvard Business Review, the Luther College Board of Regents unanimously approved data science as the newest major in the college's curriculum.

Data science, the study of how to extract meaning from data, is an emerging area of work concerned with the collection, preparation, analysis, visualization, management and preservation of large collections of data and the information it provides. It requires technical skills related to databases, programming, visualization and statistics as well as nontechnical skills such as communication and ethical reasoning.

Data scientists who are educated in the liberal arts are at an advantage as they develop strong communication and critical thinking skills.

"The data science major is the most exciting thing that has happened since I've been a faculty member at Luther. This major lets us reach out and really show how computer science and math are integral parts of the modern world of big data. The career opportunities for data science grads are virtually limitless," said Brad Miller, Luther professor of computer science.

Nearly every business, industry and service arena is attempting to understand and leverage a huge amount of digital information that, in most instances, did not exist five years ago. Big data, the trillions and trillions of bytes of digital information generated by millions of digital media platforms, has the potential to impact almost every industry.

According to the proposal, the goal of the data science program is to create "unicorns," talented graduates working at the intersection of multiple disciplines. In many ways a liberal arts college is the perfect environment for a data science program, where intersections between multiple areas of study are intentionally created.

Data science skills are complementary to many other majors, providing students with the skill and ability to process and understand large amounts of complex data in order to make new and better decisions. Real-world applications include predicting virus outbreaks, earthquakes and 500-year floods, enhancing product recommendations in e-commerce on Amazon, Netflix and the like, and turning driver experiences into programmable information in self-driving cars.

The new major integrates techniques and theory from many fields including mathematics, computer science, probability and statistics, machine learning, pattern recognition, communication and ethics. The combination of the major's courses and a capstone research experience prepares students to understand and act, combining quantitative analysis with awareness and thoughtfulness. Students focus on data sources, manipulation and management of data, interpretation of data and the impact of data.

The data science major looks to update critical thinking and problem-solving skills with an enhanced ability for analyzing data and turning information into knowledge.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,400, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.

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