Data science is one of the most in-demand and fastest growing careers in the Pacific region. As industries collect more data, they need more people who can analyze and interpret those data. This new program is part of a larger initiative to build a cohort of data science professionals in the Pacific to help support decision-making across Hawaii’s economic sectors.
“This program is all about access to high-paying in-demand jobs,” says Dr. Alexander Stokes, assistant professor at Chaminade University. “Every business sector in Hawaii, from healthcare to finance to energy and nonprofits, needs professionals in data analytics to provide decision support.”
Data science students at Chaminade participate in hands-on, project-based courses and internships that use real data provided by local businesses, agencies and community organizations. In addition to learning the necessary technical skills like coding and data visualization, students also learn about decision-making, data ethics and how to communicate complex datasets in a clear and concise way, ensuring they are well-versed in all aspects of the career.
“This project will empower students from across the region to find data-driven solutions to challenges in Hawaii and the Pacific region,” says Dr. Helen Turner, vice president for Strategy and Innovation at Chaminade University. “The Pacific faces unique challenges, and we need local students who can use local data to help us understand and address those challenges.”
The grant is part of NSF’s Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. The scholarships will be available for new students who are majoring in data science, and preference will be given to students from Hawaii and the Pacific region who meet academic and financial requirements.
The new project aims to accomplish three things: 1) Mitigate the financial and academic barriers for low-income students from the Pacific; 2) acknowledge and address the cultural and non-academic barriers these students face when pursuing an education in STEM; and 3) develop new ways of teaching and supporting student needs, strengths and cultural expectations.
“There is a national need for well-educated STEM professionals from diverse backgrounds and experiences,” says Dr. Lynn Babington, president of Chaminade University. “The support from NSF will help strengthen the career pathway for low-income students and will ensure these future STEM workers receive a high-quality, values-driven education.”
Applications will be reviewed by a panel of Chaminade faculty members and students who are selected to participate in the program will receive a $10,000 per year scholarship. Program participants will also have access to academic navigators, cultural programming, life coaching, professional tutoring, paid internships, retreats and careers preparation.