UW-Madison establishes new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences

Comp sci has become most popular major for undergrads

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Thursday that it has established a new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences in its College of Letters & Science.

The university says computer sciences has grown to become its most popular undergraduate major, with more than 1,560 students in 2018.

“Every university has had to decide how to respond to the growth in these fields and growing demand from researchers and students excited about the possibilities it presents,” said Eric Wilcots, interim dean of the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science.

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Last year, nearly 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students were pursuing degrees in majors offered by the Department of Computer Sciences, the Department of Statistics and the Information School. The new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences will include those departments.

“What we’re doing is something unique across the nation, putting these three areas together in a public land grant institution,” said Tom Erickson, the founding director of the School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences. “We’re taking three very strong programs and putting them together in a university that also has unmatched breadth and opportunities for collaboration in medicine, engineering, life sciences, nursing, education, and more.”

The American Family Insurance Data Science Institute, a research center at UW, created earlier this year, is likely to be associated with many School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences faculty, the UW said.

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“As technology becomes more pervasive in our world on all levels — from smart devices to algorithms shaping the global flow of information and commerce — it is critical that our university continue to lead in this field,” said UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “The new School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences is a place where top researchers will shape the way the world uses technology, and where Wisconsin’s students can learn how digital-age tools enrich their lives and careers.”

The university and UW Foundation plan to do a major fundraising campaign for School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences.

“Our commitment to computing, data and information sciences recognizes their importance to the local and national economy, the extraordinary research opportunities in these fields, and the exploding demand from students for training in these areas,” said Provost Karl Scholz.

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Scholz, who was dean of the College of Letters & Science in 2018 when a nine-member “Wisconsin in the Information Age” committee compiled a report recommending the creation of a new school.

“Our efforts will open new research and collaborative opportunities and help our students become more literate in the ways of data and information science and how they interact with the subjects they’ve chosen to study,” he said.

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