Howard University

Howard University to Address Racial Bias Using Data Science

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Howard University is opening a new science and analytics center to bring more diversity to the field and break down information that has social impact.

Naoko Little-Jackson is getting her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology at Howard, but her professional goals would see her spending less time in a lab coat and more time in front of a computer.

“It touches on health, education, business,” she said. “It can go into multiple different fields, and that’s why I also love it."

Howard hopes to develop students like Little-Jackson Naoko at the Center for Applied Data Science and Analytics (CADSA).

Thanks to a $5 million grant from Mastercard, CADSA will offer a master’s degree program in applied data science and data analytics, giving students the opportunity to learn from experts and bring more diversity to the field.

"There is not a lot of African American students who are actually pursuing a degree in data science and data analytics," Little-Jackson said.

The hope is CADSA will make Howard a powerhouse for data science research that has a social impact, training the next generation of data scientists to tackle racial bias in areas like finance, health care, environmental justice and criminal justice reform. 

"Our idea is to look at data science not just from the technical aspects but how we can use our faculty expertise in the humanities and the social sciences to answer broader societal questions," said Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony Wutoh, Ph.D.

He said data science touches nearly every industry, so Howard plans to recruit faculty with data science expertise from a variety of fields.

"Having them work in a collaborative way is only going to make the process even more richer and create more opportunities for our students as well," Wutoh said.

He said if Howard gets it right, CADSA will serve as an example for other historically Black colleges and universities.

With a little more than a year left until she completes her Ph.D. program, Little-Jackson is excited to be one of the first students to develop their skills at CADSA.

"Knowing that I have a group of other students who are also doing the same thing as me is going to be really helpful," she said.

Howard plans to recruit faculty for the center over the next three months. The master’s program is expected to begin in the fall of 2023.

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