Private Lyon College First to Add Data Science Major

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Lyon College of Batesville has become the first private college in Arkansas to add a data science major to its offerings. It will be available to its students this fall.

Director of Institutional Research Andrew English told Arkansas Business that Lyon would like to see 30 to 40 students declare this major. 

“If it exceeds that then, obviously, we will scale the program to be able to accommodate however many students that we need [to],” he said. “We’d love to have it become just massive.”

A search is underway for the assistant professor in data science Lyon plans to hire, English added. He called data science “an emerging field with a large gap between the supply and the demand of data scientists.”

“There’s a lot of data out there, but there’s not a whole lot of folks that can make sense of it in the way that data scientists do,” English said. “So that, combined with the interdisciplinary nature of data science, kind of made it a natural fit for Lyon, as opposed to something like data analytics or a degree in just straight statistics, that kind of thing.”

The new major could help the college attract additional students, he said.

David Sonnier, associate professor of computer science, said in a news release that the data science major will differ from Lyon’s existing computer science major in that it is a distinct discipline. Data science is more focused on algorithms and how they apply to data, combining mathematics and computing, he said.

English pointed out that data scientists can have a career in nearly any field. He said data scientists develop models and algorithms to provide information and predictions to decision-makers, report and interpret data, create dashboards and data workflows/pipelines, mine data and more. 

Each data science major at Lyon will be able to pursue one of three tracks: science; business and economics; or social sciences/humanities/fine arts.

For the science track, students will have to take three higher-level science classes and, for each class, a data science lab with a course-related project.

For the business and economics track, students will have to meet the requirements for a minor in business or economics or complete certain classes in business, economics and accounting.

For the social sciences/humanities/fine arts track, students will have to complete the digital humanities course and two classes from either the social sciences, humanities or fine arts divisions. For each class, the students will have to take a data science lab with a course-related project.

Arkansas Tech University, the University of Arkansas and UA Little Rock also offer data science degrees.