The School of Data Science presented the third in a series of symposiums highlighting various data science-related topics. Hosted by faculty and field experts, this seminar featured Padhu Seshaiyer, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at George Mason University and Director of the STEM Accelerator Program in their College of Science and COMPLETE (Center for Outreach in Mathematics Professional Learning and Education Technology). His presentation topic was “Creating Sustainable Data Science Education Pathways at Scale in the Commonwealth” with a focus on K-12 pathways.
While higher education institutions across the country have been focusing on incorporating data science into a wide range of undergraduate and graduate curricula—from business to healthcare and social sciences—through degree programs and initiatives, Seshaiyer highlighted the need for developing sustainable data science education pathways across K-12 and transition years at scale in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In his presentation, Seshaiyer discussed educational structures around curriculum development, teacher professional learning, student recruitment and engagement to address the needs of the rapidly growing data science workforce in the Commonwealth and beyond. “It is vital that our students can analyze and use data to solve problems and improve Virginia. So, leadership is committed, students are committed, the Secretary of Education and Labor are committed.”
Seshaiyer outlined three main questions at the core of K-12 data science education:
What knowledge and skills are needed for an evolving future?
How can data literacy be embedded across the K-12 mathematics curriculum?
How can we shift learning experiences to provide students with the touchpoints needed to access a 21st-century world?
Seshaiyer addressed these questions, spoke to his connection with the Virginia Department of Education, the various projects school districts have completed, and how the questions are integral to setting students up for success.
His passion for data science education was clear. “I really enjoy working with them, working with students who were in high school research projects with me. Kids are coding in Python and creating clouds … high school kids. We are missing out. I mean, these guys could code like crazy, and not just coding, but the fact that they are applying it to real context, that is the most important thing.”
Seshaiyer’s work at George Mason University is varied and inclusive, including computational mathematics, entrepreneurship, STEM education, and more. He has initiated and directed a variety of educational programs including graduate and undergraduate research, K-12 outreach, teacher professional development, and enrichment programs to foster the interest of students and teachers in STEM at all levels, including award-winning programs to engage women and underrepresented minorities in STEM.
The Data Science Symposium is spearheaded by Associate Dean of Faculty & Academic Affairs Jeffrey Blume and is sponsored by the School of Data Science at the University of Virginia. For the inaugural year, bi-weekly lectures are planned in person with a virtual attendance option. If you would like to learn more about presenting or attending, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.