$175 million in private funds helps launch UW-Madison’s School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences

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The University of Wisconsin–Madison‘s new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences (CDIS) today announced a $175 million private investment and the launch of an effort to raise an additional $50 million to establish the school as a “beacon for high tech in Wisconsin” which will be housed in a new “state-of-the-art facility.”

Construction of the 300,000-square-foot facility, which will be located northeast of West Johnson and North Orchard streets on the UW-Madison campus, is scheduled to begin in 2023 and be completed by the end of 2024. It will also house the Center for High Throughput Computing, the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute and the Department of Biostatistics & Medical Informatics.

The investment in UW’s CDIS school includes $125 million from UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge. John Morgridge is the former CEO of Cisco Systems. In 2014, they pledged to match up to $100 million in donations made by others to UW-Madison. Their $125 million commitment to CDIS is an addition to their 2014 commitment to UW, and includes a $50 million challenge grant, providing a match to raise another $50 million from other donors.

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“This is an investment in UW–Madison and the state of Wisconsin that will help secure their place in our shared future,” said John Morgridge. “Tashia and I hope our commitment will inspire others to see the transformative potential of this project and help get it over the finish line.”

UW-Madison alumni Tashia and John Morgridge. John Morgridge is the former CEO of Cisco Systems.

In addition, $50 million is being provided to CDIS from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

“We’re thrilled to join our partners today in launching a new era for the UW School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences,” says Erik Iverson, CEO of WARF, the nonprofit foundation that provides patenting, licensing and technology development for UW–Madison research. “We’ve come together because we share the vision of this campus catalyzing technologies with the power to shape societies. The mixing of disciplines in the school and its innovative new facility will enable intellectual collisions that will further drive innovation.”

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CDIS brings together UW–Madison’s Computer Sciences and Statistics departments and the Information School. The new facility for CDIS is intended to be a hub for the tech ecosystem in Wisconsin, fostering academic research, supporting student interest, and hosting collaborations with industry and community partners.

“The School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences is a place where our faculty and students will shape the way technology influences and enriches our lives. This is an investment that is central to the future of the university, as these fields are infusing and changing all other academic disciplines,” said UW–Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank.

The vision for CDIS is to provide a competitive advantage across industries, spawn entrepreneurship, and drive innovative pursuits both scientific and humanitarian, according to Tom Erickson, founding director of CDIS.

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“Society uses data and technology across every facet of industry and in our personal lives — from medicine to engineering to agriculture. Students and faculty in virtually every discipline require digital skills – establishing new table stakes in higher ed,” Erickson says. “CDIS helps our students pair the power of digital sciences with the almost unmatched breadth of highly regarded education and research programs at UW–Madison.”

“The school will enhance our ability to tackle the big challenges in data-rich sciences such as climate science, physics, and astronomy,” said Eric Wilcots, professor of astronomy and dean of the College of Letters & Science, administrative home to CDIS. “The transformative power of CDIS is in the intersection of computing and data with the humanities and social sciences.”

CDIS’ three units are now home to more than 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students studying software design, robotics, machine learning, cybersecurity, information retrieval, and more. The computer science major at UW-Madison alone grew from 200 students to 2,000 over the last decade.

“It is clear that our undergraduates understand the importance of incorporating computing, data, and information in their education. These are the skills that are in demand today across all sectors,” Wilcots said. “What is impressive is that so many of our students are already choosing to combine majors in the humanities, social sciences, and natural scienes with computer sciences and data science. Centering CDIS in the College of Letters & Science enables our students to forge these innovative combinations of majors and prepare themselves for the careers of the future.”

CDIS research collaborations are already exploring how social media shapes and reveals the direction of public opinion, how data can help supercharge clinical trials, how to help the visually impaired interact with data, and the development of ultra-high-resolution, long-range 3D imaging.

“We’re focused on a future that connects what is happening now with what happens next,” Erickson said. “The generous support of the Morgridges and WARF will complete the tech corridor on campus and further establish Madison as the next major innovation center in the country. The interdisciplinary uniqueness of our program coupled with its popularity will drive economic growth throughout the region.”

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