By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

The School of Information Studies (iSchool), an international leader in the information field, is boosting its cutting-edge academic offerings once again with the introduction of a new graduate Certificate of Advanced Studies in Data Science.

The program is the first state-approved certificate of advanced study in this topic area in New York. Content focuses on equipping students and professionals for the next looming issue in the information field – having the skills sets and the knowledge to analyze, problem-solve and take advantage of the proliferation of increasing magnitudes of information – dealing with “big data” for all types of organizations.

According to iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy, “The iSchool is helping lead the dialogue in defining data science within the academic community and for our partner organizations. In doing so, students in this program have the rare opportunity to have an impact on the first wave of data science in a wide range of organizations. This will help institutions and affiliates clarify the murky definitions of data science as it infiltrates public consciousness over the next five to ten years.”

Organizations need those with data science skills to better inform predictive models in areas such clinical research, defense intelligence, customer behavior, medical diagnosis and risk management. The CAS program is structured to provide students with hard, technical skills, but also to assure that they possess the soft, theoretical skills that organizations need. “While predictive analysis is not new, the ability to apply this practice to large data sets, whether structured or unstructured, is an evolutionary leap forward for the world,” Dean Liddy said. “Additionally, the iSchool’s focus on connecting people and ideas through technology keeps graduates poised to not only work in data science but to have the perspective needed to help it grow from its infancy,” she added.

Announcement of the program was made Tuesday, March 20, by iSchool representatives as they attended an invitation-only leadership summit for industry analysts, business leaders and executives and information innovators hosted by IBM in New York City.

Susan A. Dischiave, Assistant Professor of Practice at the iSchool, who presented at the IBM event, said the iSchool is a superior place for teaching this field of information expertise. She cited the School’s information and data orientation, expertise in natural language processing, and faculty who deal in data mining, social media, and structured and unstructured data fields.

“We’re just a perfect fit to help organizations handle these problems and to help students prepare to go into the workforce. Organizations are going to need to get their arms around the growing levels of structured operational data as well as enormous amounts of unstructured data that’s flowing from other areas; it’s a big problem, and it’s very challenging,” she observed.

Forum participants and IBM executives were enthused to hear of the iSchool ‘s program implementation, citing a vast need for future workers to address big data issues in business organizations, Erin Bartolo, the iSchool’s Program Manager for the Data Science initiative, reported after the session.    

The McKinsey Global Institute, in a report entitled, “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity” (2011), estimated that over the next few years, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people “with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

The iSchool has been offering courses related to the big data domain for some time, and with undergraduate and graduate programs in Information Management, students can incorporate portions of the certificate’s specific data science course offerings into their curriculum, even if they don’t pursue the entire Certificate of Advanced Study program.