Categories: General News

UNC Charlotte’s School of Data Science will soon expand its academic offerings with the establishment of a Doctor of Philosophy in Data Science. Approved by the UNC System Board of Governors in May 2024, the degree program will enroll its first cohort of students in fall 2025, pending approval of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

Established in response to the skyrocketing growth of the data science industry in North Carolina and globally, the new doctorate will offer two pathways for students, providing training for both future industry practitioners and university educators. This transdisciplinary program will emphasize the core technical skills of machine learning, artificial intelligence and statistics along with the social implications and ethics of data use. The program builds on the Master of Science and Bachelor of Science programs offered by the school. Its establishment is the latest example of the University’s commitment to data science, coming over 10 years after the founding of UNC Charlotte’s Data Science Initiative.

 “UNC Charlotte is always working to add and evolve academic programs with an eye toward the future. The creation of the new data science doctoral program is the latest example of our ongoing efforts to align our curriculum to the demands of industry and will allow our thriving School of Data Science to further build on its track record of interdisciplinary innovation,” said Jennifer Troyer, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

The new Ph.D. will become UNC Charlotte’s 25th doctoral degree program.

A new college home and transition in leadership
The doctoral program will be enhanced by the School of Data Science formally joining the University’s College of Computing and Informatics

This new structure will support and amplify the school’s ongoing mission to foster interdisciplinary research and partnership across the University, all while providing SDS with the institutional structure necessary for continued faculty expansion, student growth and research excellence as the school continues to bolster its position as an innovative data science institution working to push the field forward. The shift also will allow SDS and CCI to more effectively support the North Carolina General Assembly’s $41.2 million investment toward “Engineering North Carolina’s Future,” in service of the initiative’s call for investing in data science, cybersecurity and engineering efforts across the state.

As part of this transition, the school’s current Director of Research Dongsong Zhang was named its new interim executive director, effective May 15. Zhang is the Belk Endowed Chair in Business Analytics in the Belk College of Business. Founding Executive Director Doug Hague will work closely with Zhang throughout the upcoming academic year during the transition, as Hague begins a new role as executive director of corporate engagement for UNC Charlotte. In his new position, Hague will work hand-in-hand with University leadership, the Division of University Advancement and external partners to build relationships that strengthen UNC Charlotte’s connection with the business community and create additional opportunities for collaboration.

“With the newly approved data science doctoral program and the evolution of the School of Data Science’s relationship with the College of Computing and Informatics, SDS continues to strengthen its position as a leading data science program,” said Bojan Cukic, dean of the College of Computing and Informatics. “I am excited to continue to work alongside Dongsong Zhang in the months ahead as he and his team work to chart the school’s future. We are also extremely grateful for Doug Hague’s bold, thoughtful leadership of SDS over the years. He has played an instrumental role in the school’s incredible success, and we look forward to continued partnership with him in his new role as he works to foster innovation and industry collaboration to the benefit of our University.”

The UNC Charlotte Data Science Initiative was established in 2013. That initiative ultimately grew into the School of Data Science, founded in 2020. The Carolinas’ first School of Data Science, SDS is committed to excellence in education, research and community engagement to shape and lead the future of data science education, research and practice. Since its inception and to this day, the School of Data Science is an interdisciplinary partnership among UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics, the Belk College of Business, the College of Humanities & Earth and Social Sciences, the College of Science, the College of Health and Human Services and the William States Lee College of Engineering.