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UW School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences adds three degree programs

May 5, 2022 By Shannon Timm

The School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences is home to the UW–Madison’s largest major, Computer Sciences, and the fastest-growing major, Data Science. Photo: Bryce Richter

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences is adding three new degree programs to its growing portfolio to meet mounting interest from employers and students and increase access to technology curriculum at the university.

Technical expertise in computer and data science is essential for building systems that pave the way for innovation and transformation. At the same time, understanding how to ethically apply computing and data science is becoming more integral to professions beyond technology-specific fields. To meet the evolving needs of today’s data-driven world, CDIS will offer new master’s degrees in data science and in data engineering and a new bachelor’s of arts or bachelor’s of science degree in information science.

The new degree programs, which will launch in the fall, are designed to increase skills that are in high demand, preparing a talent pipeline that will drive economic growth in the region and beyond.

“What’s exciting about these new programs is that we’re creating more pathways for students,” says Tom Erickson, founding director of CDIS. “Not only will graduates be able to specialize in emerging fields, but we’ll also train undergraduates to apply digital skills to improve communities.”

The interdisciplinary approach of the new programs is another bold step CDIS — which was created in 2019 and is home to UW–Madison’s largest and fastest-growing degree programs — is taking to disrupt the traditional model of higher education.

“We distinguished ourselves from our peers with the creation of CDIS because we recognized the transformative power the school would have intersecting with the humanities and social sciences” says Eric Wilcots, dean of UW–Madison’s College of Letters & Science.

The new programs support priorities to prepare students for successful careers of the future.

“The flexibility to pair technology curriculum with other majors is an especially welcomed enhancement, because providing more STEM opportunities for L&S students is critical for the college,” Wilcots says.

The Master of Science in Data Science is a collaborative degree between the Statistics and Computer Sciences departments. The program will immerse students in data science and provide them with the technical skills necessary to think critically, compute efficiently, model and analyze effectively, and behave ethically with data.

“Data science is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the state and nation,” says Yazhen Wang, statistics professor and department chair. “Our world increasingly depends on data and computing to produce knowledge and to make decisions, and we have seen an intense demand from students for these skills.”

The Master of Science in Data Engineering, administered by the Department of Computer Sciences, is focused on teaching the principles and practices of managing data at scale. As one of the first in-person master’s programs in data engineering in the nation, the program’s emphasis is on the valid and efficient collection, storage, management, and processing of datasets to support computation and data-driven systems important to data science and data analytics functions.

“Given the increasing amounts of data being generated and processed on a daily basis, almost all industries need data engineers to build and maintain robust data-handling systems,” says Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau, computer sciences professor and department chair.

The Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Information Science, housed within UW–Madison’s Information School, is focused on the relationships between people, information, and computing. It emphasizes the ethical, cultural, and social challenges inherent in the design and use of technology-based and data-driven solutions. It can be completed as a student’s sole program of study, but it may also be completed as an additional major to complement a wide variety of programs for students who wish to bring computer, data, and information skills to their primary major or specialization.

“Graduates will be prepared with computing, analytical, and people skills for a large variety of jobs in companies and organizations that need tech and data-savvy employees,” says Alan Rubel, professor and chair of the iSchool. “By exposing students with minimal computing backgrounds to the impact of technology on society, the program is designed to reach a more diverse set of students who may not have considered a path from social science and humanities to computing, for example.”

“An interdisciplinary approach is at the core of everything we do,” adds Erickson. “Technology education at all levels prepares students to be well-rounded global citizens who can use information to solve problems. We want every student who desires tech as part of their degree to be able to walk away from the University of Wisconsin with those skills.”

The new degree programs will launch in Fall 2022, and applications are now open for the MS in Data Engineering and MS in Data Science.