Welcome Back

Welcome to the Fall 2021 semester! As I begin my second year as the Director of the School of Computing, it is good to reflect on the resilience of the School of Computing community over the past year and look forward to changes in the coming year. In recognition of the importance of the computing field to economic growth of the state and nation, I entered this role with the following priorities: (1) create a welcoming and inclusive program that attracts students who represent the diversity of the users of the technology our graduates will develop; (2) broaden the research and education programs to align with the expanding and interdisciplinary role of computing; and, (3) strengthen relationships with industry, state government, and educators to increase community impact.

As affirmation that inclusion is at the forefront of our priorities, we are launching the Utah Center for Inclusive Computing (UCIC). UCIC establishes a new staff role of Diversity and Outreach Coordinator, creates a team of student ambassadors, and provides a hub for outreach to the community. Significantly, it provides resources to revamp the introductory programming course sequence and design different pathways into our undergraduate programs,
recognizing that one-size-fits-all programs do not suit every talented student who considers a computing degree.

For the graduate students, in addition to several new elective courses, we have introduced a Teaching Training program to develop the next generation of faculty. We are pleased to welcome a record-sized Masters of Software Development cohort to train the next generation of computing professionals.

The School of Computing continues to grow and expand the programs it offers, in spite of a uniquely challenging year for higher education as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Fall 2020, even at a time when student population was shrinking at other institutions, enrollment in School of Computing courses grew by 6%. We were able to continue in-person classroom experiences for freshman and sophomores in our programming sequences through small recitation sections, and otherwise faculty and students adapted to streaming virtual classrooms. Our students Zoomed into classes from all over the world, sometimes accompanied by pets and small children. In spite of so many challenges, the largest number of students in history graduated with School of Computing degrees in 2021, and we
have seen substantial growth in incoming students so that we are now the largest major on campus.

In Fall 2021, the return to in-person classes will enable the School of Computing to renew the vibrant campus culture of our program. We look forward to working with the community to make the 2021-2022 academic year another year of growth and impact.

Mary Hall
Director, School of Computing

Introduction to The Data Science Club

Article by Koriann South. Edited by Vivek Gupta.

When and why did the club start?

The Data Science Center is a passion project that has been in the works for several years. Prof. Jeff Phillips and others spent months trying for a data science center to help students interested in Data Science, which was still a fringe issue at the University when the center was founded. An official club was also a part of this pet project. Finally, in summer 2020, a group of six students — Grad student Vivek Gupta and Undergrads Serena Aeschilman, Todd Derrick, Tajen Freeman, Pranav Rajan, and Koriann South — joined together to make an official club. We spent that summer hosting Data Science guest lectures, and the club received official recognition in the autumn, when we began sponsoring more activities.

What’s the club’s goal?

The Data Science Club’s aim is to teach data science and machine learning to students of various skill levels (first year undergrad to senior Ph.D.) through tutorials, industry presentations, and hands-on experience. We want to make normally intimidating topics (like Deep Learning) more approachable through club activities.

What are the prerequisites to join?

Any student, regardless of major, year, or past experience, is welcome to join our activities. Similarly, any student with the time and desire to be a club coordinator can apply.

How often do you meet, and what do you do at meetings?

During the autumn and spring semesters, the Data Science Club meets around every two weeks. We like to mix technical events with social/skill-building activities. Workshops that we create ourselves or technical presentations from professors or industry experts are the most common kind of technical events. (You can check out prior workshops here and talks on our webpage here.). The types of social/skill-building activities vary, and might range from tea parties to GitHub tutorials.

Get on your soapbox: Why is this club important? Why should people join?

This club is significant to us because it lowers the data science entrance hurdle. Through the club, we have learned more about Data Science than we could have studied in a class, and we have been able to pass that information on to others in a way that we believe is easy to grasp for those who are just getting started with Data Science.

For many people, data science appears to be too difficult and frightening to understand or learn. We want to simplify the process. We want to contribute to the creation of a community in which we can all learn from and support one another. Learning does not have to be difficult or complicated just because the subject matter is.

We believe that anybody interested in Data Science should join the Data Science club, especially those who are intimidated by the topic or don’t know where to begin.

If people are interested, how can they join or find out more?

If you’re interested in attending one of our events, please join our Discord server and visit our website. If you want to be a coordinator, complete all of the steps above and submit an email to uofudatascienceclub@gmail.com with your name. Do sign up for our seminar mailing list.