UVA receives approval to form School of Data Science with $120M gift

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) -- The University of Data Science has been given final approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to create a School of Data Science. The approval comes eight months after receiving a $120 million gift – the largest private gift in institutional history – to form the groundbreaking 12th school at the University.

“I am delighted that the School of Data Science has cleared its final hurdle and can officially move forward,” said UVA President Jim Ryan. “I want to thank the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for sharing our excitement in this proposal, and Phil Bourne and his team at the Data Science Institute for their hard work. Together, we have a chance to create a different kind of school that will advance our understanding of the world in all kinds of ways, and I look forward to getting started.”

The school will join with other departments across UVA, the community, government and non-profit organizations to use data science to further discovery.

“This is a historic moment for the University of Virginia and for the field of data science,” said Elizabeth Magill, provost of the University of Virginia. “The school is coming online at a time when the amount of available data in the world is more than doubling every two years, and there is soaring demand for qualified data scientists who can analyze and interpret vast amounts of data. A new school will catalyze research on daunting societal challenges and point the way toward their solutions. It will also allow us to prepare students to become responsible and creative leaders who are capable of using data science in a wide range of fields.”

Philip E. Bourne, Professor and Data Science Institute Director, was appointed dean of the School of Data Science by Provost Magill immediately after the vote conferred official status upon the school.

“Phil has been a tireless advocate for data science as a key element of a healthy academic ecosystem,” said Magill. “His peerless credentials, commitment to collaboration, and creative approach to data as an aid to interdisciplinary research and discovery – not to mention his innovative ideas for the school’s organization and approach – make him the ideal founding dean for the School of Data Science.”

In upcoming years, the school hopes to expand its offerings to teach students across the educational pipeline in undergraduate, Ph.D. and professional programs. A multi-year initiative that includes hiring 10 endowed chairs, an associate dean, research and teaching faculty, plus the development of a new building will begin immediately.

“We envision the new School of Data Science at UVA as a ‘school without walls,’” Bourne said. “In its very structure and foundation, we will build collaborative and interdisciplinary opportunities through partnerships and physical spaces for shared research and education programs. The new school will combine a focus on research, education, and service to build bridges across academic, geographic, commercial and cultural boundaries using responsible, open data science.”

The school also will focus on ethics and the practice of responsible data science, building upon the Data Science Institute’s existing Center for Data Ethics and Justice.

“Data science offers incredible, revolutionary opportunities to understand and make an impact on our world and our future,” Bourne said. “Now it is more important than ever that everyone using those skills and tools – from students just beginning to learn statistics and programming, to leaders working at the cutting edge of the field – understands the importance of using data ethically and responsibly, and putting their skills to work to make a positive impact on society and our world.”

The university invites you to join them in celebrating the official launch of the School of Data Science on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 4 p.m., at the Dell 1 building on Central Grounds. Food and drinks will follow remarks from UVA Provost Elizabeth Magill and Dean Phil Bourne. More information on the event can be found here.

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