UTSA’s School of Data Science to open in Spring 2023


Alex Fotschky, Staff Writer

UTSA’s School of Data Science is slated to start operations in Spring 2023. David Mongeau, founding director of the School of Data Science, provided answers to questions about this development located at UTSA’s downtown campus. 


Q: What is data science?

A: “Data science is a field dedicated to extracting insights from data in all its forms, such as images, sound, and text. Data scientists are people with the knowledge —the facts, information and skills —needed to work with the data. That work includes generating, collecting, processing, analyzing and interpreting the data.

“Data science is not new. In 1962, John Tukey, a mathematician at Bell Labs, coined “data analysis” as an unrecognized science. Later, in 2001, William Cleveland, a statistician at Bell Labs, where I worked for over 25 years, coined “data science.” What’s new is the amount of data that we have in 2022 because of our highly connected, networked world. Now, you can think of data science as the triumvirate of math + statistics + computing and unmeasurable amounts of digitized data combined with specific knowledge of climate, education, poverty, and so on. The combination makes it possible to address economic and social problems, to reach business goals, and even to explore new performing and visual arts in ways we could not do in 1962.”


Q: How did the School of Data Science come to be? What were the decisions and processes that led to the establishment of this school?

A: “The School of Data Science began as an initiative in 2018 and part of President Eighmy’s 10-year vision for [the] development of the Downtown Campus. It also involved a $15 million gift from Graham Weston, a San Antonio business leader, and a partnership with the City of San Antonio for the land to build the new campus. You will find this website helpful for history and context: https://provost.utsa.edu/sds/


Q: What programs will the School of Data Science bring to the UTSA community?

A: “Initially, the School of Data Science will bring together the most data science-intensive degree programs from the Colleges (which will continue to administer the programs) to establish a strong core for the university’s distributed data science community: three existing graduate programs, one Ph.D., and a new MS in Artificial Intelligence.”

“Our intent in having these programs under one roof is to support students from across the Colleges who can benefit from proximity to one another, to the downtown business community and government organizations, and in a diverse data-centric environment.”

“After the school officially opens for classes in January 2023, we will also bring many experiential learning programs to the community. For example, we will offer regular workshops about data science methods and tools, such as image and text processing, Python, scikit-image, Juypter and other valuable open[-]source software for data-intensive work.”

“The School will also being speaker series, meet-ups, communities of practice, and events to the community – all aimed to build data science know-how and collaborations across our colleges and departments and with government and industry.”


Q: How would the skills learned here apply to the workforce? What niche are you expecting to be filled?

A: “Most think tanks in the U.S and beyond, as well as periodicals such as Fortune, Forbes, and WSJ, publish reports and stories about [the] demand for data science skills in the workforce being well beyond the supply. The government and industry need people who understand how to make use of the data that they have. UTSA is preparing future data scientists for high-demand fields. Some specific markets that we will focus on are banking/finance, healthcare and health services, and logistics/transportation. We expect to fill niches in those markets that, in particular, call for a more diverse workforce and for people with grounding in cybersecurity, which is so prevalent at UTSA.”


Q: What positive impact are you expecting the School of Data Science to bring to the community at large?

A: “The most positive impact we can have will be on individuals. We can further embolden community members by either making education in data science more accessible to them or by bringing data science talent closer to them. I expect these individuals that graduate from UTSA to be aspiring data scientists and accomplished business leaders and owners. By supporting individuals’ social mobility and business success in San Antonio, the community at large will benefit.”


Q: What expectations, future or present do you have for this school?

A: “We will be a very inclusive, interdisciplinary community. I expect the UTSA School of Data Science to inspire and prepare a generation of data scientists who can make the world more equitable, informed and secure. This expectation is focused on people. With that focus, we’ll create opportunities locally so we can have [an] impact nationally. My expectations are to serve San Antonio and UTSA and to put us on the national map as a data science go-to city and university.”


More information about the School of Data Science can be found at https://provost.utsa.edu/sds/