By Abby Weingarten
This fall, New College of Florida will launch a new Master of Science in Applied Data Science program.
The Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida approved the program on March 23, nearly seven years to the day after New College’s first graduate program was implemented. The existing Master’s in Data Science program will be phased out after the current class graduates in 2022.
“This is indeed exciting,” said Burcin Bozkaya, Ph.D., New College professor of data science and the director of the Applied Data Science program. “The program will have an increased focus on the ‘applied’ nature of data science. And one of the major points regarding the new program will be a tighter collaboration and integration with the industry, as well as with the local community.”
This collaboration will be possible due to the program’s newly created advisory board, which is composed of local, regional and national executives and professionals. There will also be a new summer internship program in addition to the usual spring practicum, along with industrial workshops and seminar series, and project-based and real-world data-focused courses.
“Also, the 3+2 pathway allows any New College undergraduate in any area of concentration (AOC) to complete their undergraduate and Applied Data Science Master of Science program in five years,” Bozkaya explained.
Tiffany Washington, the director of graduate enrollment and undergraduate strategic initiatives, has been instrumental in recruiting students for the program (along with Data Science Program Coordinator Nikita Bagley).
“I’m excited for the revamp of our program, more so because of what this means for prospective students,” Washington said. “Now, master’s candidates will gain even more hands-on experience through workshops and an additional internship component.”
Zhandos Zhaken, an international student from Kazakhstan, will be among the first students to experience the new program when he attends New College in the fall.
“I chose data science because it is very versatile and all industries need this,” Zhaken said. “It helps companies and institutions create better products, services and advantages over their competitors. Generally speaking, it helps to make people’s lives better, and I want to be a part of it.”
And Zhaken is one of many. Even during the pandemic, the graduate program at New College has been garnering massive interest from students across the globe. In Fall 2020, 18 students enrolled in the program (a significant jump from the inaugural class of seven in 2015). Bozkaya helped select the students from an applicant pool of 25 (which was a six-year record high).
Professor of Mathematics Pat McDonald, Ph.D. initially launched the data science program at New College and designed it alongside Associate Professor of Computer Science David Gillman, Ph.D. Bozkaya took the helm in August 2019.There are currently eight faculty members—all from various disciplines, including statistics, computer science, mathematics, political science and bioinformatics. There were 14 students in the 2019 cohort, 10 in 2018, 15 in 2017, and seven in both 2016 and 2015. The post-graduate success rates speak for themselves.
“Our program has had a 100 percent placement rate in a data science position within three months of graduation for all students thus far,” Washington said. “Also, the median starting salary is $95,000 for data scientists.”
Undergraduates at New College can now pursue a data science minor and a 3+2 B.A.-to-M.S. option. They can either combine a primary AOC with a secondary focus in applied data science, and/or earn both a data science bachelor of arts (B.A.) and master of science (M.S.) degree in five years instead of the usual six.
Last year, a grant from the New College Foundation allowed the data science program to partner with Riff Analytics (a Boston, Massachusetts-based tech company, born from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab). New College faculty and students began researching ways to improve virtual communication in online platforms, and their findings could be instrumental in determining how people interact in a socially-distanced world.
Overall, students in the master’s program graduate with a competitive edge, having had real-world experience during their time at New College with corporate partners such as LexisNexis and the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Alumni are thriving data scientists in various industries, including healthcare, environmental and public services, city planning, and tech automation.
“Our program is designed to prepare students to land their dream jobs as data scientists. It prepares students to use their experiences to chart their own career paths,” Washington said. “We are proud to see graduates successfully penetrating the sectors they desire to bring solutions to. This is why prospective students choose our program.”
For more information on the Applied Data Science program, call 941-487-4173 or visit ncf.edu/academics/graduate-program.
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.