Data Science for Social Impact in Higher Education:  First Steps


Events and Activities

The CAN consortium explored additional ways to provide data for social impact opportunities to students that go beyond curricular and co-curricular programs. In this section you can learn about other structures used to generate interest in data science such as workshops, expos, and other short-term experiences.

Skip to Playbook Content
Explore Playbook

Data Science for Social Justice Week: Howard University

On February 23, 2023, the Data Science for Social Justice Week celebration was launched at Howard University. The week provided a platform for scholars across the campus to showcase interdisciplinary, innovative, and influential research in data science from academia, industry, and government. The celebration was highlighted by the announcement of:

  1. The HELLO BLACK WORLD curriculum
  2. DuBois Data Portraits 3D Visualization Exhibit, which included a focus on financial inclusion
  3. The MasterCard-sponsored Inclusive Growth Speaker Series

In 1973, Brian Kernighan, author of “C Programming Language,” referenced the standard “hello, world” program, which developers use to test systems. This program typically acts as an introductory lesson for students learning a new computer language. Within the “Hello, Black World” curriculum, learners are encouraged to approach coding with a focus on the Black World. By intertwining African history with coding, the curriculum’s initial lessons showcase the rich diversity of culture, mathematics, gender, and music within the Black diaspora. Teaching printing and commenting skills in Python using African-centered examples provides an engaging and culturally relevant approach to programming education.

The first activity introduces learners to Python’s print function, employing African proverbs to illustrate how printing conveys and shares wisdom. This not only imparts technical coding skills but also emphasizes the wealth of African heritage. Transitioning to the second activity, students delve into learning about variables.

HELLO BLACK WORLD: DuBois Data Portraits 3D Visualization Exhibit

The HELLO BLACK WORLD: DuBois Data Portraits 3D Visualization Exhibit represented an artist’s interpretation of Howard University’s interdisciplinary, innovative, and influential approach to data science and Analytics. Using historical 3D data visualization by W.E.B Du Bois combined with current data and commentary by influential scholars, the exhibit showcased the application of data science to solve real-world problems. Viewers had the opportunity to explore the power of data across various fields such as sociology, music, economics, history, journalism, criminology, law, and health, through the lens of Du Bois. The exhibit placed a special focus on representing Black wealth equity, emphasizing historical patterns of Black economic growth, housing and property ownership, youth and adult employment, and access to business opportunities.


Student Profile

student icon

Jasmine Hope

Jasmine Hope, NC State alum and Data Science Career Expo participant

Career Expo: North Carolina State University 

Inspiration to start the activity

When the Data Science Academy (DSA) was established in July 2021, there was robust infrastructure and support for career services at NC State University. It was a primary goal of the DSA to network data science people and initiatives from across the university in interdisciplinary ways.  We expected students from across the 10 colleges of the university to be interested in the growing number of data science-related career pathways. 

To connect students with career information and preparation as well as build relationships with organizations offering internships and jobs, we began to explore the idea of running a career expo that could attract students from every major and program of study on campus.

Our target student audience was undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs who were seeking information, internships, and jobs. Our hope was that students would attend the fair to practice interviewing and to find out what kinds of jobs are available in advance of the time they needed to secure a position.

Putting social impact opportunities front and center at our career expo has opened student minds to a world of job opportunities that can align their work with their values.

Rachel Levy, PhD, Executive Director NC State Data Science Academy

Activities Example

A-ha Moment

light bulb

Companies are willing to fly in for data science expos.

Introduction to Data Science Workshop: University of Illinois Chicago

Inspiration to start the activity

In Fall 2021, UIC started offering a new data science major with core courses from computer science, mathematics, and statistics, and concentrations in areas such as business, communication, bioinformatics, health, and public policy. Many undergraduate students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups in computing who have had little exposure to this field, are still unaware of the possibilities offered by this new major, including the opportunity to engage in social impact projects. For this reason, we decided to have a workshop to introduce students to data science and encourage them to pursue a career in this field. This workshop was offered in Fall 2022 and Fall 2023.

Activity Example

A-ha Moment

light bulb

Students greatly appreciated the use of real-world data and a social impact project during the workshop and several of them highlighted this in their feedback (“What I liked most about the workshop is using real situations to interpret what’s going [on] in Chicago”, “I liked using what [you] learned and applying it to real-world issues that matter to me”). They also appreciated working in groups and presenting their results (“My table was very helpful and supportive throughout the learning process. I enjoyed the team building aspect along with the learning experience”).

Approach to Social Impact

  • Recruiting and supporting students from groups underrepresented in data science.
  • Engaging communities in ways that empower the community to use their own data for purposes they co-define.
  • Encouraging students to seek, explore and analyze data sets that surface issues of social impact.
  • Designing educational experiences intentionally and collaboratively to build equitable and accessible opportunities and pathways in data science.
Top Back to Top