Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Master's Program Gets Nod

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Master's Program Gets Nod

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

New College of Florida received final approval from state officials Thursday to move ahead with its first post-graduate degree, paving the way for one of the most significant changes in the history of the state's liberal arts honors college.

The master's in data science program is set to begin next year with eight students and expand to graduating 15 students annually with four new faculty members. State lawmakers already had set aside $720,000 in recurring funding for the program, but it needed authorization from the state university system's governing board to proceed.

The Board of Governors voted unanimously without discussion to sanction the master's degree. In a separate action, the board also endorsed a request by New College for $454,000 in state funding to enhance arts offerings. The funding still needs legislative approval.

Expanding into post-graduate studies is a major shift for New College, which has long been focused on providing a rigorous undergraduate education. College officials hope to position the school as a leader among liberal arts institutions in the burgeoning data science field.

"It's definitely a coming of age moment" for the college, said math professor Patrick McDonald, who has spearheaded development of the new degree.

But McDonald said the master's program also complements New College's traditional mission because many undergraduates will take courses from the new computer science and statistics professors.

"It's at least as important for the strength of the undergraduate program," he said.

Analysis of large data sets has become a critical tool for a host of organizations, from corporations tracking consumer patterns to governments crafting public policy solutions.

McDonald has been working with corporations in Florida and elsewhere to develop partnerships that will offer students real world experience analyzing data sets to help companies answer certain questions. …

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