Even as more high schools add coding, analytics, and statistics classes to their curricula, many students remain intimidated by the world of data science. NYU takes away the fear factor with Data Science for Everyone, a course available to all undergraduate students regardless of major or past experience. In fact, high school algebra is the only prerequisite for the course.
Data Skills Are Increasingly Important
“If you’re a student preparing to go out into the world, whether in research, government, politics, or private industry, data-related skills and literacy are increasingly important,” says Andrea Jones-Rooy, an assistant professor and the director of undergraduate studies at the NYU Center for Data Science who developed and teaches the course. The problem, she says, is that most people lack “a real understanding of what we mean when we talk about data.” In her class, students gain that understanding—and much more.
A Holistic Approach
Data Science for Everyone gives NYU undergraduates the chance to find out what data science is all about. According to Professor Jones-Rooy, the course is as much an opportunity for humanities and social science majors to develop an increasingly marketable skill as it is a gateway for students interested in pursuing data science as a major or minor.
In the class, students learn how to code using Python, conduct statistical analyses, and, most importantly, approach data with a critical eye. By using real-world data sets for assignments and diving deep into topics like causal inference and human and statistical biases, students learn that data, while powerful, is limited in what it can tell us.
A New Way to See the World
“The one thing I’ll always carry with me from the class is the importance of asking questions about where data comes from,” says Jazmin Jinnah, a 2019 graduate of the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, who majored in Education Studies. She shares that, before taking Data Science for Everyone, she didn’t understand the extent to which data is manipulated before it’s presented to audiences. “Professor Jones-Rooy’s class focuses on the ethics of data science, which has helped me think more critically about the world,” she says.
Charting a New Path
Jazmin entered the class with minimal coding and analytic experience, but by the end of the semester, she was motivated to chart a new professional path. “I now want to open doors around quantitative data for education, because there isn’t a lot of data science focused on furthering equity, diversity, and inclusion in the field,” she says. Data Science for Everyone helped her see the analytical side of her Education Studies major—and the ways in which she hopes to positively impact the world have evolved as a result.