MTSU unveils the 'Tennessee Data Science Initiative' to educate the region for high-tech jobs

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 10:47:12-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — When you look at the Nashville skyline, it feels like there's nothing holding us back. But in the world of technology, there is one big exception. "Every corporation right now is looking for people that can analyze data because there’s so much you can do with it," Cayson Seipel said.

Seipel is a self-described data nerd in his freshman year at MTSU. He was dismayed when he learned that none of our local universities have a major focused on data science.

That is, until now.

MTSU President Sidney McPhee and other university officials announced starting this Fall, MTSU is offering bachelor, masters and PhD level majors in analyzing and understanding data. Much like our city on the rise, the new data science institute at MTSU is poised to quickly become a leader. "There are about three universities in America that are leading on this. I am positive, in twelve months, MTSU is in that top three," Mike Krause, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, told the crowd Tuesday.

With entry level salaries averaging $70,000 to $85,000, “data scientists” fill the critical role within business and industry of analyzing and interpreting the mountains of data that decision-makers need to maintain a competitive edge.

“The demand for data scientists is intense and predicted to soar nationwide by 28 percent this year alone,” McPhee said. “In Middle Tennessee, tech workforce growth is projected to outpace national growth by an eye-popping 78 percent over the next five years. This bodes very well for the economic vibrancy of our communities, and demonstrates the critical need for more technology-focused programs.”

Applications are now being accepted for the new bachelor’s degree program and enrollment is also now open for fall for the graduate certificate. The certificate is a four-course, two-semester program that will provide students online content in data understanding, data exploration, predictive modeling and modeling optimization.

For business owners like Zach Gemignani, it can't come soon enough. He's a co-founder of the Nashville-based Juice Analytics, who hopes with this degree program, more tech business will follow their lead. "There’s a real need for this to be able to work with data. Lots of untapped opportunity," says Gemignani.

Classes officially start this Fall, but Cayson is already meeting and working with faculty on data projects. "I love the fact, I’m not just working with the data, but I can help people and do things with it," he says. He hopes he's jumping into a major where the sky's the limit.

"I’m really just excited, excited to start this," Seipel said.