Willamette University adds majors in data science, public health

by Tom Morlan,

The new degree programs will launch in the fall.

Faculty in the College of Liberal Arts approved majors in data science and public health last week, opening the door to new academic opportunities in two rapidly growing fields.

The programs will begin in the fall. Kelley Strawn, associate dean for curriculum, said he’s excited about the new offerings.

“I believe we’re expanding our understanding of what it means to deliver a liberal arts education in the 21st century,” Strawn said. “We’re fusing our traditional approach to learning and knowledge acquisition with the technical skills of the contemporary world. We’re also providing students with more ways to convert their educational experience into applied, practical experience in the Salem community.”

In the age of big data, the demand for data scientists is growing exponentially. The new degree program will prepare students to make an impact in fields ranging from business to bioinformatics to environmental policy and beyond.

The need for public health practitioners is growing as well. Willamette alumni already have made significant contributions in health-related professions, and the interdisciplinary public health major will give future graduates an opportunity to build on that legacy.

Strawn said the university will be developing the new programs with input from Salem-area partners – and with a clear focus on skill training and learning outcomes. This approach will add relevance and depth to the educational experience.

“By creating new internship and volunteer opportunities that plug students into the community, we’re increasing the likelihood that their experiences will lead to job opportunities when they graduate,” Strawn said. “We expect that to be a real value-added component for students.”

Students may pair any major with a minor in business (approved last year) to augment the skills and subject-matter knowledge they’ve acquired with the principles of leadership, accounting, organizations, finance, and marketing and strategy.

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