In a recent episode of the Data Science Education Podcast, math professor and MESA Co-Director Denise Hum was interviewed about the work Skyline College has done to develop a community college pathway to data science. Originally introduced as a graduate degree, Skyline College is one of the first community colleges in California to offer a data science program.

Central to Denise’s vision is the belief that every student deserves the opportunity to explore and excel in STEM, regardless of background or prior experience. In 2020, Skyline was awarded an NSF IUSE grant to build an alternate pathway into STEM via statistics and data science, and more recently, a California Education Learning Labs grant with CSU East Bay to create “Math for Data Science,” an alternative to calculus, to break down historical barriers and open doors to lucrative job skills for all students. By bringing coding and project-based learning to Math 200: Introduction to Statistics, math faculty have changed non-majors’ course into an on-ramp to STEM. Faculty members Kenyatta Weathersby, Rick Hough, and David Hasson have been paving the way by having statistics students, decidedly non-STEM majors, learn to analyze real data using Python.

To make data science accessible to more students, through a collaboration with students from the newly formed Data Science Club, Computer Science Club, and Luis Prado from the STEM Center, a weekly series of beginner-friendly Python for Data Analysis workshops was offered last semester that led to a two-day Datathon in November. These workshops provided students with low-stakes opportunities to try out coding and working with data. Due to its popularity, the workshop series is being offered again this semester. Everyone is welcome —bring your laptop and curiosity.

While data science is a popular major at UC Berkeley, with over 1200 students per semester enrolling in their Data 8: Foundations of Data Science course, Skyline has faced challenges in enrolling in Math 211: Introduction to Data Science, modeled after Data 8, because many of our students have not heard of data science. The Python workshop series, Science in Action speakers such as Dr. Ariel Williams, who uses data science to conduct cutting-edge genetics and genomics research in traditionally underrepresented populations, and the DataJam Data for Good Honors projects with UC Berkeley and San Francisco State mentors, are all ways for the campus community to change that narrative and engage with data science at Skyline.

Denise said in her interview, “I think that data science allows us to rethink math curriculum and invigorate it. I know that data science is interdisciplinary between math and computer science…I think that it invites the conversation about how we can innovate and an opportunity to create new courses.” Listen to the podcast about Empowering Community College Pathways to Data Science.

The National Science Foundation grants support this work through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources under award number 2021488 and the California Education Learning Lab Grand Challenge INCLUDES project.

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