Morehouse College and members of the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC) are partnering with UnitedHealth Group on a new $8.25 million initiative to prepare students to meet the growing demand in the marketplace for data analytics experts.
The five-year investment by UnitedHealth Group is part of an ambitious collaboration with AUCC and its membership. The investment will fund the launch of the AUCC Data Science Initiative, which will offer technical classes for students who want to specialize in data science or learn data analysis to give them a competitive edge when they look for jobs in their field of study. The classes will be led by professors from Morehouse and Spelman colleges and Clark-Atlanta University.
The launch of the AUCC Data Science Initiative comes as the number of job openings for data professionals in the United States is projected to reach more than 2.7 million by 2020, according to a national study. The average annual salary for data scientists is $128,750. Managers in data science can earn $185,000 a year on average.
“The AUCC Data Science Initiative brings together the collective talents and innovation of computer science professors from Morehouse College and other AUCC campuses into an academic program that will be the first of its kind for our students,” said David A. Thomas, President of Morehouse College. “Our campuses will soon produce hundreds of students annually who will be well-equipped to compete internationally for lucrative jobs in data science. This effort, thanks to UnitedHealth Group’s generous donation, is an example of the excellence that results when we come together as a community to address national issues such as the disparity among minorities working in STEM.”
National research shows that black students are poorly positioned to take advantage of the data revolution, however. Public high schools in urban and rural areas often lack the resources necessary to give minority and economically disadvantaged students a strong foundation in high-level math and science before they enter college. (According to a UNCF disparity study, one-third of public high schools with primarily black populations don’t offer calculus and 40 percent don’t offer physics, which undergird a future in data science and data analysis.)
Few HBCUs have a data science-focused curriculum.
The AUCC has a long history of collaborating on impactful projects and producing leaders across many fields and disciplines. Its collective community of 9,000 students will help the new Data Science Initiative reach a broad spectrum of scholars. In addition to infusing data science across every academic discipline, the Data Science Initiative will teach students to use advanced data analytics techniques for academic research, particularly studies on disparities in minority communities. Certificate programs focused on data analytics and data science will also be developed.
“Technology in general, and data science in particular, are critical to better meeting the needs of our customers,” said David S. Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. “We are grateful for the opportunity to support this Initiative because it aligns with our desire to ensure our workforce for the future is diverse and possesses the skills needed to propel our company for continued success.”
AUCC Executive Director Todd Greene said he will soon begin a search for a new director to run the program. He is in talks with other potential partners who could help the Initiative expand over the coming years.
Through UHG internships, guest lectures, faculty development opportunities, and other joint efforts, Atlanta University Center students “will greatly benefit from this partnership with the world’s largest managed healthcare company,” Greene said. “We are grateful for UHG’s anchor investment in our vision, and we are in active conversations with other potential partners to assist us with other aspects of our plan.”