A new Data Science degree at Bellarmine University will open doors to well-paying jobs across all facets of the economy for graduates—and prepare them to navigate the ethical issues of data analysis.
The Data Science program is
an interdisciplinary collaboration among Bellarmine’s departments of Computer Science
and its W. Fielding Rubel School of Business
. Unlike many programs in the region, its initial degree—offered
for the first time this fall—is a Bachelor of Science in Data Science
rather than a graduate degree.
“We would like to get students interested in these kinds of disciplines in high school so they can pursue them in college and don’t have to wait until they are 25 years old with an undergraduate degree
in another major,” said Dr. Robert Kelley, assistant professor of Computer Science and director of the Data Science program. “If you can major in math or computer science, you can do data science.”
The program grew out of
talks with Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development agency, which aims to add 6,000 local technology jobs by 2023 through an initiative called LouTechWorks. Bellarmine pledged to create computer- and mathematics-related degrees and certifications
and increase enrollment in technology programs. The Data Science degree also aligns with the university's strategic plan
which calls for academic innovation and mutually beneficial partnerships in Louisville and the region.
The demand for data scientists—who may also be called systems analysts, data analysts, machine-learning engineers or statisticians,
depending on the industry—is growing. Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16 percent increase in employment for computer and information research work by 2028, which it characterizes as significant.
last week, I saw that Glassdoor [a job-search website] had 18,000 open data-science positions listed nationally,” Kelley said. “Every company will have to have data scientists, just like they have to have accountants. It will be part and parcel
of doing business.”
The median annual salary for data scientists nationally is $94,000; in Louisville, $74,000. “These are good-paying jobs, and they are challenging jobs—jobs where you will continually learn,” Kelley
said. “Things are constantly changing.”
Students in Bellarmine’s program will progress from learning to use data sets to answer other people’s questions to formulating their own questions and finding the data sets to
“We are going for a good mix of theory and practice,” Kelley said. “We want people to be able to understand the theoretical background and also to have skills so they can be immediately productive.”
Bellarmine is the ideal setting for such a program, he said, “because with the university’s liberal-arts approach, you have that foundation for working in a lot of different areas.” The degree was designed so that students can
easily incorporate minors or a second major.
To support Bellarmine’s mission
of educating students for ethical leadership and service to improve the human condition, the Data Science program also focuses on data science’s implications for social justice and the public good, not just on its advantages and utility for business
Just because an industry can do something, that doesn’t mean it should, Kelley said.
As an example, he points to machine learning, an application in which data scientists, rather than programming a computer with
the steps to solve a problem, teach it to look for patterns in data and improve its own decision-making. Computers used in banking can be taught, for instance, how to decide whether an applicant is a good loan risk based on data from thousands of previous
But machine learning can have inherent biases. “Take facial-recognition software. We know that it is terrible at recognizing non-white faces,” Kelley said. “If you come up through engineering, you talk about the technology
to do it. You don’t talk about bias and whether you should
“We are going to be asking those questions.”