The School of Data Science officially launches its Ph.D. in Data Science

August 24, 2022
Inaugural Ph.D. students orientation

The School of Data Science officially launched its Ph.D. in Data Science by welcoming its inaugural cohort. The 15 students came from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, from education and systems engineering to applied mathematics and legal technology.

In addition to their diverse backgrounds, the doctoral students range in age, race, education, and military status. 

Captain Jade Preston, an airman with the U.S. Air Force, joins the class as one of three active-duty personnel. 

"The Air Force is sponsoring my degree,” said Preston, “so after this, I plan to be an asset not only to the Air Force but also to any community I'm a part of." 

The inaugural cohort also includes five first-generation students, two transfer students, and a 20-year age span.

Ph.D. candidate Meesun Yang shared, "Before this, I was working in the legal industry and there are specific things that I want to use data science in the legal industry in terms of application."

Gia Smith, who is among the youngest in her cohort, joins the class directly from undergrad where she studied computer science and business analytics at Old Dominion University.

“I initially stumbled into data science because I wanted to look into big data analytics,” said Smith. “I had an internship at a company and realized I was more interested in data science than business analytics because data science used machine learning and AI,” Smith said. 

During the day’s orientation, the doctoral students heard from the Aquatics and Fitness Center, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Dahlia Hylton, and Ph.D. Program Director Jeffrey Blume. Each covered different areas of the Ph.D. program but with a recurring message, "The School is here to support you throughout your academic journey with us."

Dean Blume and Director of Academic Operations & Admissions present to students
Ph.D. Program Director Dean Blume and Director of Academic Operations & Admissions Sadie Royal Collins present to students.

“The launch of our Ph.D. program is a special time,” said Blume. “The first cohort is special because they are the realization of the School’s vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. I was excited to see the students in person, to get them interacting with one another, to field their questions, and to see all that intellectual energy beginning to flow.”

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Dahlia Hylton offered her reflections on the day.

“Even in the midst of them sharing early program jitters, the camaraderie exhibited with the cohort let me know that they will be alright! As we work to incorporate the student voice throughout this evolution of SDS’s growth, I look forward to bringing the experiences of the PhD student into the fold,” said Dr. Hylton

Members of the new Ph.D. cohort say they are excited to act as trailblazers with the School of Data Science’s newest program and they look forward to learning new material from industry experts. 

“I’m excited for the depth of knowledge in the faculty, they’re really impressive people,” said doctoral candidate Beau LeBlond. 

Classmate Bryan Christ added, “I’m looking forward to meeting all the other students and faculty."

PhD Students welcomed with a root beer float party

The inaugural cohort ended the day with a welcome reception from faculty and root beer floats.

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