Two years ago, Tuskegee University started a conversation with Jennifer Chayes, associate provost and dean of the School of Information
Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, about pathways for Tuskegee students to study data science at Berkeley.
In 2021, Google contributed $5 million to Tuskegee in support of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives, including the development of a data science program. This summer, the Berkeley-Tuskegee Data Science Initiative launched to develop curriculum and collaborative research opportunities for students and faculty at both institutions.
In the summer of 2023, the initiative is expected to launch an undergraduate research program. There are also plans underway to facilitate collaborative research between faculty at the two universities.
On June 21, 2022, Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University, met with Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ at University House, where Chancellor Christ greeted the Tuskegee delegation, including faculty and staff representatives and the first cohort of Tuskegee Scholars, 13 students in residence at Berkeley. The students will stay for eight weeks to take Data 6 or Data 8 courses.
According to the press release, Data 6 was conceived of as an 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.
The course helps include a range of students in the data science ecosystem, said Suraj Rampure, who 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.
Data 6 has been part of the Summer Rising curriculum for the STEM Excellence through Equity & Diversity (SEED) Scholars Program, which focuses on supporting undergraduates majoring in all areas of STEM. Summer Rising provides opportunities for undergraduate populations studying STEM fields in the summer before their first semester at Berkeley.
This summer, SEED scholars will be enrolled in Data 6 with the Tuskegee Scholars. During fall, Data 8 will be offered at Tuskegee in a course co-taught by faculty at both universities and synchronized with a Berkeley Data 8 offering so that Tuskegee students can attend lectures online.
“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.
Deborah Nolan, emeritus professor of statistics and associate dean for faculty at the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS), 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.
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.”
At workshop panels on June 28, Berkeley and Tuskegee faculty discussed the many ways that both universities stand to gain from the partnership.
“A school with only 3,000 students has disproportionately contributed to the number of African Americans with PhDs,” said S. Keith Hargrove, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Tuskegee, speaking in a workshop panel. He noted Tuskegee’s tremendous contributions across many fields and spoke of the university’s plans to develop a data science program.