U of A, Northark partner to develop state's data science talent pool
Posted Date: 11/8/23

Photo cutline: Standing from left: Provost Terry Martin of the U of A, President Rick Massengale of North Arkansas College and Chris LaFata, dean of Arts, Science, Business and IT at Northark. And seated: are Laura Berry, interim dean of Health Professions and director of Institutional Partnerships and Special Initiatives at Northark, and Dean Kim Needy of the College of Engineering at the U of A.

The University of Arkansas and North Arkansas College signed a memorandum of agreement on Nov.7 to align the schools' data science curriculum and allow Northark graduates who earn an associate degree in data science to seamlessly transfer to the U of A to complete their bachelor's degree in data science.

"Given that data science is one of the fastest growing career fields in the nation, creating a multidisciplinary data science program was a great way to advance our land-grant mission of service to our students and our state," said U of A Provost Terry Martin. "As we established our own data science program, the idea of partnering with other institutions to further increase access to data science training took hold. We are grateful that North Arkansas College agreed to develop this program with us, as they have created a wonderful model for other two-year institutions to follow."

"Having this opportunity for our students to have a destination and assurance in place when they graduate Northark is such a positive for our students and our program," said Northark President Rick Massengale. "We have a very aggressive, technology driven curriculum in STEM education and this is another opportunity for our students to start local, and partner with a global player in the discipline of Data Science. We are grateful for this pathway for our students and for the continued partnership we have with U of A to provide opportunity and excellence."

The agreement between the two schools is part of a statewide, multi-institution effort to bolster Arkansas' data science work force. The Data Analytics That Are Robust and Trusted (DART) program is funded by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and $4 million in support from the state of Arkansas.

"Northark is thrilled to be the first two-year college to join with the University of Arkansas as part of the EPSCoR grant," said Laura Berry, interim dean of Health Professions and director of special projects at Northark. "This is truly the most collaborative effort between two institutions that I've experienced, and it will provide a fantastic new career and transfer opportunity for students in Northark's region. My thanks to Dr. Schubert and his team for including us in this partnership!"

"It was a real honor and pleasure to work with Dean Berry and Northark to develop this MOA," said Karl Schubert, professor of practice and associate director of the U of A's Data Science Program. "It will serve as the blueprint for others to join the state-wide data science ecosystem and potentially for schools in other EPSCoR states."

The University of Arkansas — which in 2020 launched a first-of-its-kind data science program involving the College of Engineering, the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Sam M. Walton College of Business — will serve as one of the DART program's three "hub schools," alongside the University of Central Arkansas and Arkansas State University. Those four-year hub schools will partner with Arkansas community colleges to establish a common data science curriculum and create affordable pathways for Arkansans to enter a cutting-edge, high demand field whose rate of growth is expected to far outpace most other careers by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Terry Martin and Dean of the College of Engineering Kim Needy signed the memorandum of agreement on behalf of the University of Arkansas. Rick Massengale, Laura Berry and Dean of Arts, Sciences, Business & IT Chris LaFata signed on behalf of Northark. The event was attended by representatives of the Arkansas Economic Development Council, the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, North Arkansas College and the U of A.

Arkansas Economic Development Council
Brittany Hillyer, director of outreach and education, Arkansas NSF EPSCoR

Arkansas Center for Data Sciences
Bill Yoder, executive director

North Arkansas College
Laura Berry, interim dean of Health Professions and director of Institutional Partnerships and Special Initiatives
Cheryl Keymer, chair of Business and IT
Chris LaFata, dean of Arts, Science, Business and IT
Rick Massengale, president

University of Arkansas
Jack Cothren, director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies and NSF EPSCoR DART Science Principal Investigator
Alan Ellstrand, associate dean, Walton College
Kristy Fink, assistant to the dean, College of Engineering
Bryan Hill, associate dean, student success, College of Engineering
Mike Malone, vice chancellor for economic development
Terry Martin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs
Kim Needy, dean, College of Engineering
Andrea Partain, fiscal support supervisor, Data Science Program
Shantel Romer, graduate research assistant, DART Education Theme
Lee Shoultz, assistant director, Undergraduate Data Science Program, DART Education Theme Program Manager
Karl Schubert, associate director, Data Science and co-lead NSF EPSCoR DART Education Theme

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