PORTSMOUTH — Great Bay Community College will send four people to a data science summit in Washington, D.C., funded by the National Science Foundation that will set a course for two-year data science programs around the country.
The Two-Year College Data Science Summit May 10-11 is geared toward improving educational and career outcomes for students seeking a job after graduating with an associate’s degree, those who want to transfer to a four-year program, and others seeking certificate programs and college-level course courses to improve their careers.
“Data science has become such a large field, and there is a recognition that a two-year data science program can meet the needs of several different populations,” said Deanna Friedman, Great Bay’s interim associate vice president for academic affairs and one of four Great Bay representatives who will attend the summit and talk about the school’s experience launching and promoting a two-year data science degree.
Mary Rudis, an adjunct professor and former math department chair who led the effort to develop the program, is co-chair of the conference. Also attending will be current math and engineering department chair John Mannarini and data science student Antonela Duni.
Friedman called Rudis “a pioneer for Great Bay” because of her work to build and promote the college’s data science program. Great Bay offers a two-year associate’s degree in data science, as well as a clear transfer pathway to the University of New Hampshire-Manchester and the prospect of a four-year bachelor’s degree in analytics. Great Bay’s associate’s degree mirrors the first two years of four-year degrees in data analytics, and prepares students for jobs as a junior data scientists and the opportunity to advance in their field.
Great’s Bay’s involvement in the national conference reflects its stature and reputation, Friedman said. Great Bay began a certificate program in data science 2014, and added the two-year associate’s degree with the transfer path in 2016. The school will use the platform of the NSF-sponsored conference to present its data science program as a model for other two-year schools.
The goal of the summit is to create a summary of the current state of data science and analytics programs at two-year colleges and a discussion of the challenges of establishing programs. The summit also will provide guidelines and outcomes for two-year programs, and catalog of resources available to two-year colleges considering creating a data science program.
Data analysis involves the ability to obtain, interpret and report on data insights, and is useful in private business and industry, public sector jobs and the non-profit sector, Friedman said.
Great Bay’s program continues to grow and evolve. Great Bay is working to make its courses available to its sister schools in the Community College System of New Hampshire, and to put them online “so we can reach out more to the state of New Hampshire and beyond,” Friedman said.
Great Bay is well-positioned to lead a field that involves collecting, processing and analyzing information. Data is seen as a new frontier, and data analysts are leading its exploration. Data analyst jobs are abundant, lucrative and intellectually fulfilling, Friedman said.
Rudis and Friedman will relate Great Bay’s experience at the conference, describing the growth of the program, the development of the curriculum and the kinds of students who tend to succeed.
At the conference, Duni will speak about her experience as a data science student and how she settled on the field of study. She came to Great Bay while working at the National Visa Center where a newly created quality department was using statistical analysis to improve efficiencies and it made an impression on her.
“I was surprised that math could impact my daily work routine, and I was inspired by it,” she said. “This is how I got the first idea of what data science does and how much it can impact a business.”
Duni will graduate this year with an associate’s degree in liberal arts, and is debating her options for a four-year degree. She will continue her studies either at the University of New Hampshire-Durham or UNH-Manchester. “I don’t want to join the workforce yet,” she said. “I believe a four-year school will prepare me better and give me a chance to dive deeper in to the field.”
One of her classmates is already working in data science, based on the strength of Great Bay’s associate’s degree. She will talk to conference participants about the classes she’s taken and how Great Bay’s program has served her needs and met her goals.
Friedman’s hope for the conference is learning new ways to spread the word about the career potential and reach new students.
The field appeals to anyone who is driven by curiosity and equipped with basic math skills. The field is especially relevant to journalists, engineers and other professionals whose careers intersect public policy. The Great Bay program gives students foundational competencies in data communication, including how to conduct surveys and experiments, how to extract, sample and analyze data, and to how to visually present that data in a manner that clearly communicates a policy, agenda or idea.
The conference and Great Bay’s participation in it is funded by a National Science Foundation grant.
For more information, visit www.greatbay.edu.