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Data Studies Program for Undergraduates

The Data Studies program offers UC Davis undergraduate students a unique opportunity to take their major and apply it to the world of data, learning how to question, analyze and present data research that will enable them to get jobs. 

Joe Dumit, professor of anthropolgy, director of Science and Technology Studies and director of the Institute for Social Sciences, describes the program: 

"We visited 20 companies in Silicon Valley and throughout northern California and they would really like to hire graduates of UC Davis who have the critical thinking and big picture skills of social science and humanities. But they also need these graduates to understand their number one problem: data.

"Companies run on data, often in the form of Excel spreadsheets and Access databases. Companies are full of more data than they know how to analyze. 
"Over and over again, businesses told us that they need graduates who want to think about customers as people as well as data, who are willing to work with data scientists to identify problems, assist with cleaning, interpret findings and ask whether a presentation really shows what it promises. This is an exciting combination of high tech and big think, and it is what companies are looking for. Are you interested?


"We are introducing a series of three summer school courses this year to provide the bridge between your major and the business world. In these courses you will learn how to think about and manipulate data, how to think and work computationally with data problems, and how to visualize and communicate your findings in teams and individually.

"These are not 'data science' courses and they do not require knowing statistics or how to program. Instead, these course take your ability to think and work with social problems and add the core skills and understanding necessary for entering today’s organizations, for working with data scientists and business leaders together, and for solving data-driven problems.

"This new program involves taking two courses in Summer Session I (a full course load) and one in Summer Session II. These courses will culminate in your portfolio project, a research project in which you define a problem, analyze data, visualize your findings, and make a 2-3 minute video presenting your results. This type of video portfolio demonstrates your data skills as well as your communication abilities and is essential in getting an internship or job today. We are working directly with campus internship office to coordinate company visits…

"There are no prerequisites other than a serious interest in working with data in a problem solving environment. All students are eligible and we are looking for a diverse class and one that is looking forward to the job market. We have only a limited number of seats this summer but will be expanding next year."

Introduction to data studies

Businesses, institutions, and governments run on data. This course provides a hands-on introduction to the role of data, data-based jobs, and the value of critical thinking and social science in approaching data in the real world. You will learn computational thinking, business rationales, as well as ways of evaluating, visualizing, and presenting results. Using a case-based approach, it teaches you the four essential concepts and skills necessary to understand and work with data on a day-to-day basis: (1) why data needs to be structured and how to use excel to organize and manipulate files; (2) why data needs to be queried and how to use databases to search and display it; (3) why data needs to be questioned and how to use interviews and ethnography to address stakeholders involved in making decisions about its appropriateness; and (4) why data needs to be cleaned and how to manage files and databases for maximum efficiency. Together, these skills enable you to identify new opportunities from data “assets”, communicate with data scientists and executives, and interpret insights from data analysis.

"Have the liberal arts major that you love and get a good job!"

— Tim McCarthy, UC Davis alumnus, author and former president of Charles Schwab and Nikko Asset

Concepts in data analysis and statistical reasoning

You’ll learn the core concepts in statistics and data analysis used in business analytics and data science. The focus is on critical thinking and reasoning about data-driven conclusions and insights, rather than the technical details of the methods. You will learn the vocabulary and heuristic ideas data scientists use, and gain experience with exploratory data analysis to find and report interesting features from data.  You will learn to skeptically analyze results, consider alternative explanations, issues with sampling schemes, etc.  You will become familiar with approaches used to make inferences in the presence of uncertainty, and why and how to quantify uncertainty.

Data studies projects and presentations

This lab-based course teaches you team and individual problem solving involving data assessment, analysis, visualization, and communication. Group work involves analyzing the current job market and understanding how to map and find a place in it. You will work on authentic data analysis problems using and practicing the skills and approaches learned from the previous two courses. The outcome of this course is a portfolio suitable for showing potential employers for an internship or job.  Each project results in a report, presentation, and a 2-3 minute video in which you walk the viewer through your approach to a problem, its results, and a decision recommendation.



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