TD Canada Trust has donated $1 million to Western University in support of several expansion initiatives in data analytics.
The funds will target the development of several projects that will enhance the structure of the data analytics program at Western and provide greater opportunities to students. Renovations on campus are currently underway to create the TD Analytics Hub, a physical space dedicated to data analytics research and active learning.
The investment will fund the annual TD Women in Data Analytics bursary to encourage greater gender equity in data science, which will be annually awarded beginning in 2018 to four women. It will also support the initiation of a year-end competition and a capstone event for the recently launched masters of data analytics program. Lastly, it will create a TD professorship in data analytics that will ensure data-driven research responds to industry needs.
“We have created what we believe is the first bachelor in data science program in Canada,” says Doug Woolford, the director of the masters of data analytics program. “There are some other schools that have data science undergraduate programs, but they are tacked on as sort of specialty options to existing programs. Our undergraduate programs, we believe, are the first bachelor of data science programs in the country.”
The undergraduate program in data analytics will become available in the 2018–19 academic year. Current data analytics courses are limited and in high demand. The enhanced program structure will make specialized data analytics courses available to more students.
“There’s a lot of interest in the area, but there’s not enough course-based opportunities for people to go and sign up,” says Jacob Hunte, a doctoral student in computer science. “Our one intro to data science course is overbooked right now, so a lot of students aren’t actually able to do it.”
Hunte explains that only a limited number of seats in the intro to data science course are available to students from other faculties while many are allocated to computer science students.
“It encourages diversity, and this is diversity in many aspects,” says Hunte. “With the additional funding and this program going forward, we can now take [more] people from different faculties. … The diversity will allow us to see different methods of how we can apply [data science] in different fields.”
With the intensive developments taking place in the field of data analytics, Western is on its way to becoming one of the country’s leading institutions in data-driven research.
“I would say that Western science is becoming the place for data science,” says Woolford, “We’re happy that this gift is going to create new state-of-the-art bases for training in data science and data analytics.”