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Data Analytics Initiative to Prepare Diverse Bowie State Students for Success

August 27, 2018
Nearly $400K Grant from the National Science Foundation Funds the Initiative


MEDIA CONTACT: Damita Chambers, dchambers@bowiestate.edu, 301-832-2628 mobile

(BOWIE, Md.) – As advancements in technology are generating large amounts of data across all industries, more organizations are seeking professionals who can analyze it to understand trends and make predictions that inform decision-making.

To meet this growing demand, Bowie State University is using a three-year, $399,843 National Science Foundation grant to infuse data analytics into the curriculum and research for a broad range of disciplines. This initiative will lead to the development of possibly Maryland’s first undergraduate certificate program in data science analytics.

Bowie State’s Data Science and Analytics Initiative will prepare students, including underrepresented minorities, to help organizations make better decisions by deriving insights and uncovering hidden patterns in large datasets. It will develop a more diverse cadre of data science professionals and strengthen the pipeline for more minorities to enter the field.

The core team of faculty leading the initiative apply their data analytics skills to research in their disciplines: Drs. LaTanya Brown-Robertson and Augustin Ntembe, economics; Dr. Eric Bonsu, chemistry; and Dr. Azene Zenebe, management information systems.

Latanya Brown-Robertson“Data science isn’t just dedicated toward a specific discipline, such as information systems or computer science. The functional aspects of it are needed in all disciplines,” said Dr. Brown-Robertson, the lead researcher. “Everything is moving toward analyzing large databases to make various decisions. In finance, for instance, they need to work with large databases to make predictions about the stock markets. In psychology and marketing, it helps with understanding consumer behaviors. In economics, it helps to understand which types of policies could impact particular groups and how those changes could be implemented to have a larger impact on society and the allocation of resources.”

Bowie State faculty from various disciplines formed a learning community this summer and began to learn practical data science skills using free online IBM Watson courses and certificate programs that are available to the public. So far, 12 professors have earned more than 37 IBM-issued certificates and badges. The faculty will implement the lessons in their existing courses and design upper-level undergraduate courses in data analytics.

In promoting best practices for integrating data science into the curriculum, the core team will develop online training tools to share with BSU faculty and educators around the globe. In three years, Bowie State plans to launch five new courses to establish an upper-level undergraduate certificate program in data science analytics.

Starting in summer 2019, students will have the opportunity to work with faculty across disciplines on data analytics research and present their findings in academic publications and conferences. Faculty and students will apply their skills to develop solutions for real business challenges using datasets provided by the initiative’s industry partners, including the Prince George’s County Office of Information Technology, American Chemical Society and Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission.

"Just learning the basic skills in data science will be very useful for our students who will become more competitive in the job market, which is now data driven,” said Dr. Ntembe.

Data Science Drives Decision-making

With the explosion of data across all industries, it’s not surprising that data scientist has topped the list of best jobs in America for three straight years, with a median base salary of $110,000 and more than 4,500 job openings, according to Glassdoor’s 2018 50 Best Jobs in America report. Professionals need the right combination of skills to harness the power of data science, drawing on techniques used in statistics, computer programming, machine learning, multivariable calculus, and data visualization.

Developing more diverse data science professionals has major implications on how organizations make decisions that may impact the larger society.

“When policymakers are deciding about the distribution of public resources and other measures that affect communities and individuals, it is important that the people analyzing the data are diverse and have a deep understanding of issues impacting minority communities,” said Dr. Brown-Robertson.

As an economist who studies urban communities, she knows through her research how public policies affect vulnerable populations. She co-wrote a study recently published in the American Economic Review that analyzed local tax administrative data to assess whether the District of Columbia’s Earned Income Tax Policy program helps buffer against gentrification and displacement of low-income residents.

Through its initiative, Bowie State is preparing the next generation of data science professionals who will have the potential to transform the profession and make positive contributions in critical decision-making that will benefit organizations around the world.


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About Bowie State University
Bowie State University (BSU) is an important higher education access portal for qualified persons from diverse academic and socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking a high-quality and affordable public comprehensive university. The university places special emphasis on the science, technology, cybersecurity, criminal justice, teacher education, business, and nursing disciplines within the context of a liberal arts education. For more information about BSU, visit www.bowiestate.edu.