Program shapes future leaders in responsible data analytics

The Data Analytics and Intelligence for Social Impact major in the School of Education and Human Development will produce responsible data-driven decision-makers, empowering them to collect and use data for insights that increase social impact.
An aerial view of the Coral Gables Campus
An aerial view of the Coral Gables Campus. 

As society faces challenges that demand more complex, data-driven, and collaborative solutions, and organizations—especially non-profits—wish to create more positive impact in their communities, the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami has introduced an innovative Bachelor of Science program in Data Analytics and Intelligence for Social Impact (DAISI).

The program is designed to equip students with the skills necessary to assist individuals and organizations achieve these impactful goals. Enrollment is now open for the upcoming spring semester. The curriculum aims to produce socially responsible decision-makers who can collect, analyze, and use data to generate insights that increases social impact. Soyeon Ahn, a professor at the School of Education and Human Development, is the creator of the degree program. 

The DAISI degree was created through a collaborative endeavor involving Kim Grinfeder, professor and chair of the Department of Interactive Media at the School of Communication; Scotney Evans, an associate professor at the School of Education and Human Development; Ellenmarie McPhillip, associate dean for undergraduate programs; and Laura Kohn-Wood, professor and dean of the School of Education and Human Development. 

“Any time people are talking about data, they're always thinking about numbers,” said Ahn. “But data is not just numbers. Data is any information that can be used in decision-making processes or for everyday life.”

Ahn said that usually when people think of data, they associate data collection and analysis primarily with specific fields such as computer science—but data collection and its use are applicable to any discipline.

At the core of the program is a key principle highlighting the methods to generate, analyze, and use the data in a way that is less “biased” and more “equitable,” she said. This ensures that the process of data collection, analysis, and utilization are conducted with fairness, equity, and justice, devoid of the influence of any specific identity, she added.

“That is why we will be looking at each stage of the data life cycle from a social justice and equity perspective to make sure that we avoid introducing human biases toward any decision-making processes and practices,” Ahn pointed out.    

The program, which is interdisciplinary, customizable, and collaborative, will offer students the knowledge and skill sets to not only learn how to collect, measure, analyze, and report data. But more importantly, they will be able to contextualize the data and derive insights that contribute to the creation of more resilient and sustainable data-driven information, decision-making, and practices, according to Ahn. In addition to the required courses, students will have the flexibility to customize their program of studies with a selection of courses drawn from various disciplines.

DAISI aims to empower graduates with the technical expertise in the data life cycle. It also builds critical thinking skills and solid theoretical foundations, enabling the generation of impactful social outcomes in fields like education, medicine, and behavioral and social sciences such as sociology, psychology, geology, and communication, Ahn noted. 

Through the program’s interdisciplinary design, students will learn key analytic skills. These include data collection, data wrangling, data management, and data analysis, and tools including Excel, Tableau, and R/SAS/Python programming that are crucial for the data life cycle—collecting, managing, and analyzing data. They also will develop the ability to accurately and persuasively communicate insights that address real-world challenges, said Ahn. 

The curriculum culminates in field experiences, practicums, and study abroad opportunities, which allow students to engage in collaborative efforts with community partners both locally and globally. Through these experiences, students critically apply theories, methodologies, skills, and knowledge, fostering more responsible data-driven information gathering, decision-making, and practices. 

“This program is well-suited for students aspiring to create a meaningful, long-lasting social impact that is equally beneficial for all individuals and communities regardless of their backgrounds, based on more representative and less biased data,” Ahn explained. 

The program also will address the critical issue of the “underrepresentation of various populations in the data related workforce,” she emphasized.

“Our program is dedicated to actively recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, creating opportunities for them to become part of the path to the data-related workforce,” Ahn said. “Our commitment aims to enhance representation of individuals and communities in the data-related professions, contributing to the development of more resilient and sustainable data-driven policies and practices grounded in equity, fairness, and justice.”