Data Science for Social Impact in Higher Education:  First Steps


About the Network

Read about the origins of the Capacity Accelerator Network (CAN), the institutions involved, and the people who created the Playbook content.

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History of the CAN Consortium

The idea for this Playbook was generated as part of the founding of the Capacity Accelerator Network (CAN) (powered by CAN aims to develop and scale data science education programs with a critical focus on social impact. This Consortium of institutions is led by Principal Investigators and Key Personnel: Dr. Nathan Alexander (Morehouse College), Dr. Gonzalo Bello (University of Illinois Chicago), Dr. Mario Banuelos (California State University, Fresno), Ms. Kate Connor (Harry S Truman College, a City College of Chicago), Dr. Rachel Levy, (North Carolina State University), Mr. David Mongeau (University of Texas, San Antonio), Dr. Amy Quarkume (Howard University), Dr. David Uminsky (University of Chicago), and Dr. Ping-Shou Zhong (University of Illinois Chicago). CAN was intentionally created to include higher education institutions with different structures, locations, missions, and students (e.g. public/private, doctoral/2-year, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions). This diversity of institutional perspective will help you create new knowledge, programs, and opportunities that have the best possible chance of translating and scaling to your local context.

All of the CAN partners above collaborated to author this Playbook. Each composed the content about their experiential data science for social impact program and then worked as a group to generate other content such as “Lessons Learned.” Additional authors included: Dr. Tracy Appling, Dr. Amanda Brown, Dr. Jeanne Century, Dr. Hangjie Ji, Ms. Patricia Mitchell, Ms. Mindi Mysliwiec (Esq.), Ms. Susan Paykin, Dr. Joanna Schiffman, and Ms. LaSandra Skinner.

California State University, Fresno

California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) is one of 23 campuses within the California State University System and is the largest four-year institution in the state’s San Joaquin Central Valley. Fresno State is dedicated to serving this area’s diverse student population. Fresno State is situated in an important agricultural region, with the top five most productive agricultural counties in the United States. The university’s values of Discovery, Diversity, and Distinction are reflected in our students, who often come from immigrant migrant farm workers. Fresno State has also been ranked nationally as an engine of social mobility, due in part to the fact that the student body reflects the demographics of the region. As data science efforts steadily increase, Fresno State is well-positioned to address community and societal questions unique to the region.

Harry S Truman College, a City College of Chicago

Harry S Truman is an individually accredited community college that is part of the seven-college district of City Colleges of Chicago. The College is an open-enrollment institution that offers associate degrees for transfer and career preparation. The college also offers GED and English as a Second Language programming along with continuing education courses for personal and professional development. In 2014, the College was announced to have a specialized focus as a Center of Excellence in the District for Education, Human, and Natural Sciences. Truman College serves a diverse group of students from around the world with students hailing from 160 different countries with 90 different languages spoken at the college. Truman is designated as both an HSI, Hispanic Serving Institution, and an AANAPISI, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution. 

Truman College is working alongside the other colleges in the District to understand how to build a data science program that will build opportunities for both transfer and employment. 

Howard University

Howard University is a comprehensive, research-oriented, historically Black private university providing an educational experience of exceptional quality to students of high academic potential with particular emphasis upon the provision of educational opportunities to promising Black students. Further, the University is dedicated to attracting and sustaining a cadre of faculty who are, through their teaching and research, committed to the development of distinguished and compassionate graduates and to the quest for solutions to human and social problems in the United States and throughout the world. Howard’s enrollment has approximately 9,689 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students representing 45 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, as well as nine nations. Students pursue 143 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows, and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.

Our new MS in Applied Data Science and Analytics program prepares students for successful careers in a burgeoning and prospering field. With a unique emphasis on Social Justice and the growing importance of understanding data across academic disciplines, this three-semester-long program provides students with traditional data science opportunities while also offering specializations in the areas of Minority Health and Health Disparities, Environmental Justice, and Economic Empowerment. Howard’s data science students have the opportunity to conduct original research; interact with our community, government, and industry partners through an internship or practicum; produce a capstone project; and engage with world-class faculty.

Morehouse College

Morehouse College is the world’s only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) for male-identified students. Morehouse was founded in 1867 with a central purpose and mission to educate Black men for careers in ministry and education. With over 17,000 alumni representing more than 40 states and 14 countries, Morehouse College has produced numerous Rhodes Scholars, college presidents, political, civic, and industry leaders. The National Science Foundation has ranked Morehouse as the number one producer of Black male college graduates who receive doctorates in education, science, mathematics, computer science, the social sciences, and arts and humanities.

Morehouse College is a higher education institution for men located in Atlanta, Georgia. Total student enrollment at Morehouse College is approximately 2,300 undergraduates with 96 percent of students enrolled full-time. As a college for men, the full-time undergraduate Morehouse College population consists of 100% male-identified students, with the largest majority of enrolled students (72%) identifying as Black or African American. The most common Bachelor’s degree concentrations at Morehouse College are Business Administration and Management, Biology, and Political Science and Government. The most specialized majors across degrees at the College, meaning they have more degrees awarded than the national average, are Philosophy and Religious Studies, English, and the Social Sciences.

North Carolina State University 

NC State is a comprehensive research-1 university known both for its leadership in interdisciplinary innovation and its sense of tight-knit community. As a leader in experiential education, NC State provides unparalleled opportunities for students to put learning into practice and to develop career-ready skills.  With more than 37,000 students, more than 9,000 faculty and staff, and a combination of quality and affordability, NC State is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best values in higher education.

NC State is located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region, home to many of the country’s leading technology, research, and pharmaceutical companies. NC State’s Centennial Campus, a national model for public-private research parks, is home to more than 70 university academic units working alongside more than 75 corporate, government, and nonprofit partners. NC State University’s extensive public and private partnerships create a unique culture of collaboration to address the grand challenges facing society, and our solution-driven research, technology, and scholarship lead to new ideas, products, and services. 

Launched in 2021, the Data Science Academy (DSA) is the first academy at NC State and supports all aspects of the university’s mission of research, teaching, and outreach. The courses, consulting, and research enablement. and programming offered by the DSA reaches all university colleges and facilitates conversations with communities beyond campus.  Every DSA course is project-based, and student-centered. and incorporated practices from our novel ADAPT Course Design:  All Campus Data Science Accessible Project-Based Teaching and Learning.  These courses have attracted students from 100 majors across all the colleges of the university and have been incorporated into programs of study, certificates, and minors.

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago (UChicago) is an urban, private research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. With its main campus on Chicago’s South Side and seven international campuses and centers throughout the world, students can choose from 53 majors and 47 minors in the undergraduate College, with four divisions and seven professional schools for graduate study. In 2023, there were 7,653 undergraduate students and 10,870 graduate students across the university, more than 190,000 alumni worldwide, and 99 Nobel laureates affiliated with UChicago. 

The UChicago Data Science Institute (DSI) executes UChicago’s bold, innovative vision of Data Science as a new discipline. The DSI drivesseeds research on the interdisciplinary frontiers of this emerging field, forms partnerships with industry, government, and social impact organizations, and supports holistic data science and AI education. 

The mission of DSI is to address important scientific and societal questions through coordinated advances in applications, models, algorithms, and platforms. To execute this goal, we:

  • Research: Transcending traditional boundaries by organizing our research into interdisciplinary themes focused on high-impact results that can benefit society, with programs including multi-year research initiatives, seed grants for high-risk, high-reward research projects, and the development of a research ecosystem.
  • Outreach: Using data science as a lens to re-envision the University of Chicago’s relationship with the South Side of Chicago and greater Chicagoland, a platform for UChicago to lead, innovate, and engage with industry, and a powerful approach for creating meaningful social impact.
  • Education: Expanding upon the conventional view of data science — a combination of statistics, computer science, and domain expertise — to build out the foundations of the field, consider its ethical and societal implications, and communicate its discoveries to make the most powerful and positive real-world impact

University of Illinois Chicago

The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) is an urban, public research university dedicated to the discovery and distribution of knowledge. UIC is the largest university in the Chicago area with 33,522 students (22,107 undergraduate students, 7,315 graduate students, and 4,099 professional students) enrolled in 2023. It offers 94 bachelor’s programs across its 16 colleges, including a bachelor’s degree in Data Science launched in 2021.

In the 2022-2023 U.S. News & World Report ranking of colleges and universities, UIC ranked 42nd among public national universities and it is the only university in Illinois ranked among the 10 best-value colleges in the nation by Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education. UIC is also recognized as one of the most diverse research-intensive universities in the United States. It has been federally designated as a Minority-Serving Institution (MSI), a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI). The university’s institutional commitment and support for these student populations has been recognized nationally, including the 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

University of Texas, San Antonio

Founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved populations, The University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), the largest university in the San Antonio metropolitan region, is a recently designated top-tier regional research institution that is part of the University of Texas System. With $154 million in total research expenditures in FY 2021, UTSA has rapidly grown from its beginnings in 1968 to 34,734 students across its four physical campuses in the city in addition to its virtual presence. Today, UTSA is a leader among Hispanic Serving Carnegie R1 universities. The institution is ranked 3rd among R1 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the percentage of students who identify as Latino/Hispanic. UTSA has made intentional, strategic efforts to recruit, hire, and retain faculty from diverse backgrounds that reflect the demographic makeup of its student body. As a result, UTSA has the second-highest percentage of tenured/tenure-track faculty who identify as Hispanic or Latino. The Institution’s academic programs and research span six colleges: Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering and Integrated Design, Health, Community and Policy, Liberal and Fine Arts, and Sciences.

To make its students and secondary school talent pipeline competitive in the digital economy, UTSA established the School of Data Science in 2018 to provide state-of-the-art training in data analytics and science. The school is a cornerstone in UTSA’s long-term plan to inspire and prepare a generation of diverse data scientists who can make our world more equitable, informed, and secure. Programs offered at the School include five graduate degree programs, eight boot camps, certificates, and custom corporate and undergraduate degree programs in computer science, artificial intelligence, data analytics, data science, and applied statistics. Furthermore, the school facilities will include at least 16 centers and research labs dedicated to artificial intelligence, cloud and edge computing, data engineering, digital humanities, and health analytics. 

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