Rollins Announces New Minor in Data Analytics

August 21, 2020

By Elsa Wenzel

Student writing out programming language on a blackboard.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The new data analytics minor sharpens highly desired skills in the ever-evolving career landscape and epitomizes Rollins’ signature interdisciplinary approach to liberal arts education.

Rollins is launching a minor in data analytics with an interdisciplinary approach that’s uniquely suited to tackling 21st-century challenges.

The College joins a small number of liberal arts institutions offering a minor in this vibrant, emerging field. Extensive research and academic advocacy encourages data science courses for undergraduates, as demand in the job marketplace for data analytics skills outstrips the supply.

“It’s an area where there’s been a lot of interest from students for a few years now because they see the clear applicability in the market,” says political science professor Don Davison, who developed the minor together with computer science professor Dan Myers and business professor Tim Pett. “Also, they see it as a way to tie together a lot of different interests.”

Rollins is well positioned to offer a data analytics minor that not only connects the “dots” of data points, but also examines patterns within larger frameworks and across disciplines. The addition to the curriculum serves Rollins’ mission of preparing students for global citizenship and responsible leadership within a future-proof context.

“If you think about why people are interested in data analytics, it’s not about the numbers,” says Myers. “It’s about turning data into something actionable. You have to have critical-thinking skills, oral communication skills, and broad knowledge so you know what matters, and you have to use data ethically.”

Photos by Scott Cook.

A society dense with digital data is increasingly reliant on managing and discerning patterns among large quantities of data, and that’s spawning new jobs that don’t even exist yet. According to research by the Business-Higher Education Forum, employers are actively seeking job candidates with data analytics skills across business, government, and nonprofit sectors. In fact, 69 percent of employers in a recent Gallup poll say data science skills offer candidates a competitive edge, but only 23 percent of educators expect to produce graduates with those skills.

The Rollins minor in this evolving field sharpens the skills involved in collecting, managing, and transforming data for analysis; interpreting and critically evaluating outcomes from the analysis; and communicating that information orally and in writing. With these skills, scientists can test their hypotheses, journalists can accurately depict trends, and artists can enhance their expression with critical analysis.

“I’ve always been a numbers person,” says Tyler Nagy ’22, a mathematics and public policy and political economy double major pursuing the data analytics minor. “Now I’m seeing how the numbers apply to areas in the real world.”

In Davison’s American Social Policy course, Nagy used data analysis to compare parental leave and child care policies in Spain and the United States, which is just one example of how students in the data analytics minor apply classroom learning to real-world scenarios.

In Data for the Social Good, students apply advanced statistical techniques to analyze how public policies in different states impact the achievement gap in K-12 schools and then share policy recommendations with decision makers in Central Florida public school districts.

“The economy is information-rich and it’s only going to continue to accelerate,” says Davison. “This type of program positions our students well upon graduation.”

Students minoring in data analytics will take Fundamentals of Computer Science, Fundamentals of Data Science and Analytics, a statistics course, along with three electives in intermediate statistics and areas of application.

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