Scripps College unveils new data science minor

A laptop is open to a coding screen.
Scripps College will now offer a data science minor to meet the increasing demand for computer science education. (Nanako Noda • The Student Life)

Scripps College students now have the option of completing a data science minor after the new track was approved for the fall 2020 semester.

The Aug. 25 announcement of the new minor follows the addition of Scripps’ first computer science faculty member and the creation of a data science sequence at Claremont McKenna College, TSL reported last fall.

The program, led by mathematics professor Winston Ou and psychology, neuroscience and data science professor Michael Spezio, will provide students in a wide range of fields with supplementary education in computer science and data analytics. 

The minor requires seven courses: Computer Programming, Foundations of Data Science, Probability and Statistics, Linear Algebra, Data Science Ethics & Justice and two upper-division courses selected in consultation with a data science minor adviser, according to the course catalog

In addition to courses in coding and statistical models, the minor requires a course in ethics and reasoning.

“The focus on ethics and justice is just as necessary [as the other courses],” Spezio said in the announcement. “No DS program should be allowed or funded without such a focus, but it’s still quite rare.”

The requirements include both Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 as prerequisite courses. While Linear Algebra, an advanced math course, is a requirement of the minor, the statistics component can be satisfied through applied courses in the biology, economics or psychology departments.

The only required language in the minor is Structured Query Language, a commonly used tool for database analytics. Students must have a “working knowledge” of SQL, though the minor also offers the option of taking introductory programming through either the Media Studies department or through the new Data Science department, according to the course catalog.

In total, the new department will offer two data-science specific courses: Introduction to Python and Data Analysis and Introduction to Data Science. The program aims to prepare students with marketable skills and new opportunities as they pursue careers and postgraduate studies, the announcement said.

The number of Scripps students majoring in computer science has risen in recent years, but so far Scripps students have taken the major through Harvey Mudd College or Pomona College, TSL previously reported. 

This influx of student interest has put pressure on Mudd’s computer science department, and some Class of 2023 students were told Mudd could no longer guarantee their placement in Mudd computer science courses or the major, according to the deans of faculty of the respective colleges. 

With this program, Scripps will begin to address some of that demand itself.

Ou said in the announcement that “this is sort of the wave of the future.”

“If you’re a politics major and you can gather, analyze and interpret data sets for yourself, then you have a huge advantage.”

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