ABET, a national accrediting body for science, technology and engineering programs, announced Northern Kentucky UniversityThe Bachelor of Data Science degree will be the first of only two data science programs in the United States to gain accreditation through the institution’s rigorous assessment process.
Founded in 1932 and formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, ABET accredits 4,361 programs at 850 colleges and universities in 41 countries. Engineering Technology programs at NKU have been accredited by ABET since 1994.
Within the past decade, data science has emerged as an important new field, prompting ABET to announce that it will create certification standards for it. NKU was selected in 2020 to be one of only two universities to undergo the inaugural accreditation process.
NKU’s Data Science program was the third bachelor’s program of its kind in the United States when it launched in 2013, and the first in the greater Cincinnati area. The degree is offered at the new School of Computing and Analytics at the NKU College of Informatics. The program places a strong emphasis on big data analytics and machine learning, combining a rigorous background in computer science and statistics with real-world capstone projects.
Allen Dettmer, Vice President and Cognitive Computing Engineer at Fidelity Investments, was able to see the work of NKU’s data science coronation students first-hand in May. The project used artificial intelligence techniques to perform sentiment analysis of social media posts.
“The graduation project with NKU students for the 2021/22 academic year was a successful and rewarding experience,” said Dittmer. “Their progress has always exceeded our expectations and accomplished more in one semester. Students worked outside the framework of their traditional course and led many aspects of research for the project with minimal guidance from Fidelity. The final presentation gave us useful insights that will advance Fidelity’s products.”
Right from the start, NKU leaders realized that data science is many things at once. “We started shaping the data science program back in 2011,” said Dr. Kevin Kirby, dean of the NKU School of Informatics. “We have built a multidisciplinary team of faculty from computer science, statistics and business information systems because a good data scientist must be skilled at scale, and a real Renaissance person.”
The data science degree at NKU has been a stepping stone to successful careers. Parker Kane graduated from the program in 2019 and is now the chief data scientist at 84.51°C in Cincinnati.
According to Kain, “The NKU Data Science program has prepared me to deal with the wide range of what can be required of a data scientist. The program provides a strong foundation, from data processing and analysis to visualization and storytelling. Throughout, the program provides students with space to explore their interests through project work. open while allowing them to dive deeply into their chosen fields. It has provided me with a great starting point for my career, allowing me to understand the real life cycle of data science, and positioned me to make a significant impact at work.”
ABET’s approach to accreditation focuses on learning outcomes, guiding it towards a set of traits that professionals must possess to excel in their field. Maureen Doyle, chair of the Department of Computer Science, worked on the Association for Computing Machinery working group to develop a curriculum guide for data science and led the University of North Carolina effort. Dr. Seth Adjei worked at the NKU School of Computing and Analytics as the project lead.
“The ABET accreditation review process is rigorous and comprehensive in its assessment of program content, assessment, and university support,” Doyle said. The ABET team meets everyone from the students to the university president. Our NKU colleagues from the library, the dean’s office, and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics all contributed to this achievement. I am proud of how NKU has come together to achieve this accreditation.”
As a leader in data science, NKU also engages K-12 students in the field. NKU is the primary university partner of WeLead CS, an initiative to expand access to accelerated early-college career paths in computing to Kentucky high school students. House Bill 680, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly and signed by the governor in May, called on WeLead CS “to develop the nation’s first sequential career path to prepare students for careers in data science.” Initial efforts are being carried out through iLEAD, a regional vocational academy serving high school students in five rural counties.
“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs requiring data science skills will grow by 27.9 percent by 2026,” said Alicia Sales, director of innovation at the Ohio Valley Education Cooperative. “With the national average salary for data scientists at $176,000, it is imperative that Kentucky prepare students for these opportunities. With the guidance of the NKU College of Informatics, WeLead CS has developed a dual undergraduate credit program that provides a seamless pipeline from Kentucky high schools to a Bachelor of Science degree. Data at NKU. This talent development strategy is the policy for smart education and economic development for Kentucky’s future. ABET’s accreditation of NKU’s bachelor’s degree adds significant credibility to our efforts to engage schools, students, and parents.”
Since 2005, the NKU College of Informatics has brought together a wide range of information-focused fields, from journalism to software engineering. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security’s Academic Center of Excellence has been in cyber defense education since 2015. NKU’s Data Science program is one of the college’s suite of degree programs that is experiencing surprising new growth. Enrollment in NKU’s suite of computer science and software engineering programs, which includes data science, is up more than 18 percent compared to last year.
Northern Kentucky University