Regents approve new undergraduate major in data science at Pacific

a professor and student look at an acrylic board as the professor writes on it

The University of the Pacific Board of Regents today approved a new interdisciplinary undergraduate major in data science, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world.

The four-year program is designed to appeal to students interested in the humanities and social sciences as well as computer science and engineering. It will be offered on the Stockton Campus beginning fall 2024.

“In today’s world there is an abundance of information and data and almost all decisions and aspects of life are driven by that information,” said Computer Science Chair Chadi El Kari. “The ability to analyze and make informed decisions based on data is extremely important, whether it's for businesses, policymaking or in other environments.”

The initiative to launch a new major was driven by faculty who identified the crucial need to prepare undergraduate students in the field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth to be more than 30% between 2022-32. Jobs requiring data science skills in California have a median salary of more than $114,000 according to Lightcast, a data analytics company.

Applications for data science are wide ranging, from building self-driving cars to keeping a company’s data secure to analyzing recruits for sports teams to improving health care management.

“Every field is being transformed by data, so we had to make something that was flexible,” said Professor of Physics and Director of Data Science Jim Hetrick. “In a lot of ways, this data revolution is similar to when personal computers were introduced in the 1990s because it touches so many aspects of life. If organizations are not dealing with the data they have, they are falling behind.”

As an interdisciplinary program, courses will be taught by faculty in the School of Engineering and Computer Science and College of the Pacific—the university’s largest college which houses its liberal arts and sciences programs—to better prepare students for current demands.

“We are the first undergraduate program that is going to be hosted across two schools,” said Professor of Mathematics John Mayberry. “Because of that, students are going to get a lot of different experiences working with faculty. There is also the potential to have advisors at both schools and work on projects with both schools.”

The program, which is designed to work well as a double major, will have five core classes with four tracks students can choose from depending on their interests: data engineering, predictive modeling and machine learning, using data for decision-making and storytelling with data.

“There is more to data science than computer science and programming, mathematics and statistics,” said Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics Sharmila King. “You have to be able to explain in a compelling way to your clients, your customers or to management why they should believe the analysis you have come up with. There is a big storytelling component to data science, and that's what makes our program different.”

Pacific launched a master’s program in data science on the San Francisco Campus in 2015, which is one of the university’s fastest growing programs. A minor in data science is also available to undergraduate students on the Stockton Campus.

Students interested in the new data science major can learn more about the program and how to apply by visiting the Data Science major's webpage.