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Ridge School announces master’s degree in data science

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Innovation is nothing new for the Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science at Mercyhurst University and, beginning Fall 2015, the school will debut its newest interdisciplinary graduate program — the Master of Science in Data Science — which is the first of its kind in the United States. Applications are currently being accepted.

The data science degree at Mercyhurst was designed to meet a gap in higher education and to enhance the university’s competitive edge among liberal arts graduate institutions. Whereas programs in data science exist, no other American institution offers an equivalent interdisciplinary graduate program that combines both data science and intelligence while also incorporating curriculum from public health and business.

“The data science graduate degree is the next step in The Ridge School’s efforts to create interdisciplinary initiatives in emerging 21st century science and technology fields,” said James Breckenridge, Ph.D., dean. “A data science skill set married with Mercyhurst’s traditional strengths in applied intelligence, public health and business will provide attractive employment opportunities for graduate students.”

As Harvard Magazine managing editor Jonathan Shaw points out in “Why ‘Big Data’ is a Big Deal”: “Data now stream from daily life: from phones and credit cards and televisions and computers; from the infrastructure of cities; from sensor-equipped buildings, trains, buses, planes, bridges, and factories.”

In the same article, Weatherhead University Professor Gary King adds, “There is a big data revolution. But it is not the quantity of data that is revolutionary. The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.”

As public and private organizations attempt to address the challenges posed by the data revolution they will need to hire skilled practitioners educated as data scientists.

“Data science is one of the most important disciplines of the future, and it will intersect with every area as the reservoir of the world’s data continues to grow,” said Chad Redmond, Ph.D., chair of Mercyhurst’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Systems. He cited a McKinsey Global Institute report that stated: “The United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

This new master's degree will produce students skilled at information collection, quantitative and qualitative analysis, technology application and knowledge transfer. The role of multi-media, social media and data visualization will also be emphasized.

“This graduate program is unique because it responds to employer demand in businesses, public agencies, and nonprofits for data professionals who are not only competent in extracting meaning from large datasets but also innovative in producing, visualizing and communicating actionable new insights about the meaning of the data for decision-makers in all these fields,” said Dawn Wozneak, Ph.D., chair of The Ridge School Graduate Programs.

The Ridge School is currently accepting applications for Fall 2015. The degree is offered on campus and an online option will be announced in the near future. For more information, visit:, or contact the Office of Graduate Admissions at 814-824-2297 or