This fall the Data Science Initiative and the D-Lab partnered with student organizers to initiate the Data Scholars program, a community providing a welcoming environment and support resources to underrepresented students taking Foundations of Data Science (Data 8), Berkeley’s lower-division course for students of all intended majors.
Strong support from D-Lab
Claudia von Vacano, Executive Director of the Social Sciences D-Lab, said that her organization hosts and supports the Data Scholars program as part of its long-standing commitment to making data-intensive research and teaching more accessible and welcoming to a diverse swath of the campus community. The D-Lab offers classes, services, support, and a venue for research design and experimentation in data-intensive social sciences. Its programs include a summer internship program that provides research mentorship to underrepresented minority undergraduates.
Building a pipeline
Statistics Professor Ani Adhikari, who is teaching the Foundations of Data Science course this fall, said she strongly supports the program because diversity of students is an essential element in Berkeley’s data science program.
“Their presence will matter in the future,” she said. “Who gets to decide what data will be studied, and what kinds of questions are asked of the data? This group has to be as broad as possible, to bring in a range of perspectives.”
“The whole goal of this course is to make data science as accessible as possible to students of many majors and backgrounds,” Macias said. “Data Scholars is an extension of that, and we want to be proactive about making sure there’s not a diversity problem in data science at Berkeley.”
The program is slated to continue in the future and will expand to include support for additional courses beyond the Foundations course.
“Ideally we hope that the current Data Scholars will become the next generation of lab assistants and GSIs, and become a visible part of Berkeley’s data science community,” Macias said.