Wittenberg professor, Ron Taylor helps a student in a computer science class. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Wittenberg adds data degree to meet demand in high-paying field

Wittenberg will introduce a new science-based degree program next year that will give students more opportunities to study statistics, math and business.

Adam Parker, the chair for department of mathematics and computer science at Wittenberg, said the new data science major is a growing field.

“This is meant to fill that need in the market space,” Parker said. “These are students that have a lot of statistics, a lot of computer science and enough business so they can communicate with those high-level thinkers in order to make decisions for a business or a hospital or a college.”

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Wittenberg is a major local employer with a total of more than 250 employees and has an estimated $70 million economic impact on the Springfield community. The data science program is another addition to the university as it works to keep its core as a liberal arts college intact while providing degree options that are in demand and provide high-paying jobs.

Allison Scaia, a Wittenberg alum and assistant vice president-claims operational analytic at The Hartford, said a data science degree paired with a liberal arts background can make for a strong candidate in the work force.

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“It’s imperative that data scientists have strong critical thinking skills and express curiosity as well as strong communication skills,” she said.

Communication is key, Parker said, and a Wittenberg graduate with a data science degree will be highly sought after.

“Because our students have strong writing and speaking skills, they also are in demand because they can communicate with the people who are making decisions higher up,” Parker said. “They are not just going to be people in a dark room doing data analysis. They are going to be interacting with lots of different people.”

Someone with a data science degree can get a job in many different fields, he said.

“This is really expanding outside of business,” Parker said. “It is very important for advertising, in terms of segmenting a population. The more you can segment and reach a target population the more successful you will be.”

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Schools, hospitals and even athletic teams are looking at data more often to make the right decisions.

Kenneth Kukier, a senior editor of The Economist and a Wittenberg graduate, said data science continues to grow.

“It has an impact on all fields,” he said. “The same sort of sophistication of working with data that has long been part of the general sciences is now moving into all areas of life.”

Wittenberg has more than 1,800 students enrolled and has a goal to increase enrollment to 2,000. Parker said the timing of the new degree is what could separate Wittenberg from other universities and attract more students to campus.

“This is a chance to be on the leading edge of something,” he said. “Data science is a new field, a hot field. In 2017 it was named the best job in America. This is a hot area of the market place and getting in here early speaks well for Wittenberg.”

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