By: Louisa Gaylord
Photo credit: Tara Brown Photography
The University of Washington launched the Data Science Minor in Fall 2020 to help undergraduate students gain data science skills and literacy to help supplement the area of their major. Since its inception, the minor has been one of the fastest growing programs at UW, as students see how widely utilized data science tools are and the value they bring to their areas of study. Since UW students can declare a minor during their sophomore year, the graduating class of 2023 was the first to contain students who have been enrolled in the Data Science Minor for the majority of their studies.
Ben Roscoe is one of these recent graduates, having just earned a BS in Economics and BA in Political Science with a minor in Data Science. He first heard about the minor while taking “Data, Technology, and Development in Africa” with Professor James Long. Ben enrolled in the course because he was interested in African politics and how they applied to his Political Science studies, but learned that it counted towards the minor. “I realized that Data Science is a lot broader than I thought and I can continue to study what I’m interested in while completing the minor,” he said.
The course requirements for the Data Science Minor offer a lot of flexibility for undergraduates to explore how data science methods can apply to a number of different areas. Students take a data skills course to acquire some basic knowledge and terminology, a data studies course that gives them a foundational understanding of the opportunities and limitations of data-intensive methods, as well as a capstone course. The majority of the class credits come from an ever-changing list of electives designed to showcase an extensive range of data science applications – some of which can even overlap with the students’ major requirements. “It has been illuminating to see how some of the same data science skills I’ve learned for economics are useful in literary analysis, astronomy, biology, and engineering,” Ben said.
An increasing number of employers are recognizing the value in data science literacy as well: “Most jobs I found in the economics field require some level of training in data science,” said Ben. “Having the data science feather in my cap allowed me to do better in my other econ classes and my job interviews.” His favorite data science course during his studies was “Data Science for Strategic Pricing” that taught him machine learning skills and how they apply to his economics studies and the world beyond academia.
Now that he has completed his studies at UW, Ben is getting ready to start a job at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. He has some great advice for new undergrads who are curious about data science and considering enrolling in the UW Data Science Minor: “Education is never wasted and data science skills are always in demand. Take some time to learn how to use data and understand when and where it can be applied,” he said. “Sometimes it can seem like you are expected to be an expert right off the bat. Don’t get discouraged if at first it won’t work because it gets easier if you stick with it.”
If you are interested in pursuing data science as part of your undergrad studies, check out the list of courses for the upcoming Fall 2023 Quarter, which include classes in African American Studies, Digital Arts and Experimental Media, Environmental Science, Real Estate, and Marketing.