Transylvania University is launching a new minor to prepare students for the rapidly growing field of data analytics, which has surprising connections to the liberal arts.
With new courses starting next academic year, the program will help students develop a range of skills — from computation to storytelling.
“As the world becomes more interconnected and data-driven, it is imperative that liberally educated people have the necessary tools to evaluate the validity of, and make meaningful use of, enormous quantities of data,” mathematics professor Michael Kelly said.
Over the summer, Kelly and professors Mike LeVan and Sarah Bray attended a data science workshop in Colorado sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Then they incorporated what they learned into the new minor.
Their proposal highlights how having a foundation in the liberal arts can enrich data analytics, helping students address today’s problems in ways that are interdisciplinary, holistic and socially responsible.
This ties into the school’s embrace of the digital liberal arts more generally.
“With the increasing amount of our activities being tracked, analyzed and used to predict future actions, data analytics now plays a crucial role in understanding the world around us,” Kelly said.
The variety of elective options for the minor points to its interdisciplinary nature: Ecology, Entrepreneurship, Linear Algebra, etc. If students have already taken any of these courses, they can count toward the minor. The new, required classes, like Introduction to Data Analysis and Statistics, will roll out through the 2024-25 school year, Bray said.
Also, a capstone course will have students gather and analyze data sets using resources such as machine learning.
Those graduating with the minor will have developed a solid range of skills, including: communicating the results of data analysis; wrangling, curating and managing large data sets; and understanding the fields’s statistical and mathematical foundations.
Transylvania graduates are already excelling in the field. For instance, Tim Meko ’06 creates visuals to help readers make sense of complex data as deputy graphics director for The Washington Post.
In addition to data analytics, recently approved Transylvania minors include Africana Studies and medical humanities.