The data science minor (coming Fall 2024) at Pomona is open to students majoring in any discipline who wish to develop skills in using and analyzing data.
The rise of connected devices, sophisticated sensor networks, automated decision-making, and digitization of traditional records are all examples of how the world is increasingly influenced by data. Given the explosion of information, there are opportunities to learn new insights about the world. At the same time, there are major consequences to data use — decisions about public policy, political movements, economic and other conditions are made using certain types of data. There are philosophical and artistic intersections with data, as computational developments create vexing and urgent ethical questions. Understanding how to use data to learn about the world, and how the use of data has impacts on people’s lives, is a valuable part of a modern education.
The data science minor at Pomona College is the interdisciplinary field that focuses on data and the knowledge we gain from data. Data science is the creation, application, and critique of tools and processes that enable one to extract and communicate meaningful insights about data drawn from across many disciplines. The main tools of data science come from computational, mathematical, and statistical traditions, but it is more than simply a set of skills. Data science also emphasizes critical thought about how to make sense of patterns and variation across an interconnected world, how to communicate such complexities to others, domain expertise to interpret data, and the ethics of different data generation, processing, and analysis choices. Training in data science provides students with the ability to make sense of large-scale information, share that information with others, put insights into practice for social change, and analyze the sometimes powerful and insidious ways data influence people’s lives. The minor’s capstone project relies on preliminary coursework. Accordingly, all data science minors should complete the five courses, one in each of the core areas —programming, statistics, data science, ethics, and linear algebra courses—by the end of their junior year.