The data analytics program’s first semester on campus is off to a fast start, fueled by a $4 million endowment from Sentry Insurance.
First announced in March, the program currently has 21 students registered, far exceeding the school’s initial goal of having 16 students in the major by the end of the 2016-17 academic year.
“We’re going to exceed our expectations, and it’s going to be a matter of by how much at this point,” said Prof. Tim Krause, Department Chair of Computer and New Media Technologies. “The core data analytics course was not only full, but a little over. It gives me the appearance a number of students are trying out data analytics before declaring the major.”
The program is a joint venture between the College of Letters and Science, and the College of Professional Studies. Students take a mix of computer programing, data analysis, statistics, economics, and business marketing courses.
Krause said there are a number of current students who were interested in the new major, but due to how far along in their academic career it didn’t make sense for them to switch, due to the high number of credits required to graduate. Students with a data analytics major are required to obtain 70 credits, while a typical major on campus requires around 40 to 55 credits.
Jim Frank, Vice President for Information Technology at Sentry Insurance, believes the program has been received well.
“We hosted a get together earlier this semester for prospective and current students, which was well attended. I sensed a fair amount of enthusiasm. I think students realize there are career opportunities in data analytics” Frank said.
Frank sits on one of the committees that are currently searching for two faculty positions that would lead the program starting in the fall. The committees hope to bring in a total of six candidates for the two positions starting next week to interview and meet with students and faculty.
Given the nature of a new field like data analytics, and the intense competition for qualified personnel between academia, and the private sector, Krause believes a decision on the two positions is likely to be reached in January.
“The challenges are the same as any other search, just amplified,” Krause said. “The talent pool to draw upon also adds a challenge, and I think that’s going to continue.”
“I think everyone hopes to continue to grow the number of students in the major,” he added. “Ultimately we would like to see 50 to 60 majors in the program.”
Logan T. Carlson