UC Berkeley and Tuskegee University announce data science partnership
Tuskegee University and UC Berkeley recently announced the Berkeley-Tuskegee Data Science Initiative, a multi-year partnership to develop curriculum and collaborative research opportunities for students and faculty at both institutions.
On June 21, Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University, met with Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ to discuss the new initiative. In a reception at University House, Chancellor Christ greeted the Tuskegee delegation, including four faculty and staff representatives and the first cohort of Tuskegee Scholars, 13 students in residence at Berkeley for eight weeks to take Data 6 or Data 8 courses.
“We're excited to create our partnership with Tuskegee around the theme of community – community in the classroom, how we teach our students community in our research, how we explore challenging issues and fields at the intersection of data science and society and community at the university level between UC Berkeley and Tuskegee University,” said Chancellor Christ.
President Morris noted Tuskegee’s pioneering legacy as a top historically Black college and university (HBCU), including a track record for excellence in STEM fields. “We want to go beyond that legacy and take Tuskegee to the next level in terms of technology, in terms of what’s going on in the world today, so that our students will be marketable when they go across that stage at graduation,” she said.
On June 28, faculty at both universities discussed the collaboration at the National Workshop on Data Science Education in both online and in-person sessions on the Berkeley campus.
The Berkeley-Tuskegee Data Science Initiative events this summer are the culmination of two years of conversation and planning. In 2021, Google contributed $5 million to Tuskegee University in support of STEM initiatives, including the development of a data science program. The initial phases of the initiative are funded by part of this contribution.
Deborah Nolan, emeritus professor of statistics and associate dean for faculty at the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS), was involved in the project from the outset. She and collaborators at Tuskegee and Berkeley have been exploring what shape educational and research collaborations could take between the two universities. Nolan said the initiative’s events last week were both a launch and a celebration of this shared endeavor.
Strengthening social science contexts in Data 6
Nolan has met weekly for a year with faculty in electrical engineering, computer science, sociology and bioethics to collaborate on the course “Computational Thinking for Data and Society,” an updated version of Berkeley’s Data 6. Her collaborators include Berkeley's Lisa Yan and Charis Thompson and Tuskegee's Vivian Carter, Mandoye Ndoye, Yasmeen Rawajfih and Stephen Sodeke.
Data 6 was conceived of as another on-ramp to Data 8 – a foundational course for the data science major – that would engage students with real-world examples, give them practice with computing and also satisfy the social science breadth requirement. Many at Berkeley were involved in the course development, including Ani Adhikari, faculty director of pedagogy for Data Science Undergraduate Studies, Cathryn Carson, chair of the Department of History, Dave Harding, faculty director of D-Lab, and Eric Van Dusen, lecturer for Data Science Undergraduate Studies.
The course helps include a broader range of students in the data science ecosystem, said Suraj Rampure, lecturer in the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute at UC San Diego. Rampure helped to develop the earlier iteration of Data 6 as a master’s student in electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley and is also contributing to the update.
Nolan said the partnership with Tuskegee creates an opportunity to further develop the course as a collaboration between social scientists, computer scientists and statisticians in order to teach thinking that is foundational to both social science and data science.
Vivian Carter, head of the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Tuskegee, said she is most excited by the interdisciplinary nature of this new curriculum. “As social scientists, we understand how technology changes our society, how it changes our interactions and the significance of our interactions,” she said. “From a more psychological standpoint, we can also talk about how technology changes individuals.”
Data 6 has been part of the Summer Rising curriculum for the SEED Scholars Honors Program for the past two years. Summer Rising provides support and opportunities for historically marginalized undergraduate populations studying STEM fields in the summer before their first semester at Berkeley. SEED scholars will be enrolled in Data 6 with the Tuskegee Scholars this summer, and Ira Young, program director for the SEED Scholars, was part of a Berkeley delegation that visited Tuskegee in March.
“I hope Data 6 will help students feel a sense of belonging in data science,” said Lisa Yan, an assistant teaching professor for electrical engineering and computer sciences and a collaborator on the Data 6 revision.
Envisioning a new data science program
As Tuskegee leadership begins to implement their own data science program, Tuskegee Scholars will play an active advising role. Additionally, teams of Tuskegee and Berkeley students will work on projects this summer that will feed into the development of Data 6.