Harnessing the power of data is no longer a specialized skill set mastered by few. It's a necessary and critical literacy marker for individuals in nearly every profession.
Thanks to a founding gift from Michael J. Dominguez '91, Bucknell University is expanding its efforts to educate students across disciplines in the field of data science. The new Dominguez Center for Data Science will launch in 2024, and with it, programming that leverages curriculum, research and the expertise of faculty from all three of Bucknell's colleges.
The Dominguez Center for Data Science will prepare Bucknell students to solve global problems in a digital age through hands-on learning experiences that prepare them for 21st century careers. The center will also emphasize responsible data use, ensuring students understand how to ethically execute data-driven decision-making.
"Data will be an increasingly important component of any field students pursue," Dominguez says. "It serves as the foundation for decision-making, drives innovation, and is critical to the future of any business or initiative."
The launch of the new center is a tangible indicator of progress toward The Plan for Bucknell 2025, which identifies the cultivation of academic excellence across the institution as its first strategic commitment. "The Dominguez Center for Data Science will provide students opportunities to hone their data literacy while developing skills that will carry them through the future," says University President John Bravman. "We're exceedingly grateful for Michael's commitment to the founding of this center, which will become a distinctive and defining element of the Bucknell experience."
The center's vision emerged through interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty from across the University: From the Freeman College of Management, Professor Matthew Bailey, analytics & operations management; from the College of Arts & Sciences, Professor Peter Brooksbank, mathematics; and from the College of Engineering, Professor Brian King, computer science. Through a benchmarking study of data science programs at other institutions, the team found Bucknell to be well-positioned for distinction in the field because of its three-college structure.
The University emphasizes the practical application of data through programs that apply data science in innovative ways, pushing beyond the assumed boundaries of data as a discipline. Samuel Gutekunst, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Assistant Professor of Data Science, frequently partners with students and faculty colleagues from across the University on data-centric initiatives and anticipates an even broader integration of data into various disciplines through the center. "Bucknell students have already done incredible work in data science — from academic research, to applied analytics, to solving real big-data questions for companies," Gutekunst says. "This new center will open up more opportunities for cross-college collaboration on real, impactful projects."
The center will serve as a central hub for offices that facilitate and enhance data-centric academic work, and will become a sought-after resource for the entire Bucknell community.
"Numbers are only a small part of the story of working with data," says Margot Vigeant, interim provost. "Turning numerical values into meaning is at the heart of data science, and why it is absolutely critical that this center sits at the intersection of all three colleges and multiple disciplines. It is important for every member of our academic community to be able to thoughtfully process, consider and engage with data."
Recruitment for a center director will begin at the start of the spring semester. As the critical first hire, the director will elevate cross-college programming and research, expand existing expertise in data visualization for multidisciplinary initiatives, create pathways for community engagement, and develop a summer bridge program surrounding data science challenges to attract students from under-resourced schools.
Dominguez — who serves as chief investment officer and senior managing director at Providence Equity Partners and is a member of the University's Board of Trustees — sees the center as a doorway to opportunity. "Bucknell provided me with growth and development that transformed my view of leadership and scholarship," he says. "I'm thrilled to be a part of something new — something highly relevant and distinctive — that will help transform education at the University."