Iowa State to consider two new degrees


Faculty Senate representatives Bianca Zaffarano, Jose Rosa and Clinton Gudmunson listens to a presentation about Canvas, ISU’s new learning Management system during the Faculty Senate meeting Sep. 12 in the Great Hall. 

Tiana Nichelson

There are two new bachelors degrees pending approval to be added to Iowa State’s curriculum.

The Bachelor of Science in data science and the Bachelor of Science in actuarial science will be voted on by the faculty senate at their December 12 meeting.

The bachelors degree in data science will give students a number of new opportunities for employment. Data analysts are in high demand in industry, non profit agencies, and government.  

Associate Deans Arne Hallam, and Sriram Sundararajan have worked to bring the data science degree to Iowa State. Professor of computer science, Hridesh Rajan, has been working to make data driven research more accessible.

“Some of the students who are going to take the degree are going to go into industry but some of them also will decide to pursue a higher education,” Rajan said, “so it’s going to directly feed into that graduate pipeline.” 

Students will be taught core skills and problem-solving approaches. They will be prepared with technical and communication skills to succeed as data scientists.

Rajan mentioned the program works well as a co-major.

Currently, there is no degree like this offered through the Regents’ universities in Iowa.  

Various colleges at Iowa State provide education useful for those pursuing data science, but none extensively cover the field.

“There is a significant body of data driven research going on on our campus already,” Rajan said.

Five classes will be added to the catalog in order to meet the learning outcomes for the program. 

Iowa States current facilities and equipment is sufficient to establish a high quality program. A new tenure track faculty member would need to be hired in the first year to help teach the courses.

The bachelors degree in actuarial science will offer students the opportunity to have a career as an actuary. The program is a joint effort by the College of Business and the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics.

Actuaries work for businesses with a focus on finance, like insurance companies. They manage risks and help leaders make strategic decisions.

Des Moines is the second biggest insurance center in the country, making it convenient for students to find local jobs.  

Along with the degree offered by the College of Business, a certificate in actuarial science will also be offered by the mathematics and statistics departments. 

3 new classes will be added to the finance department, while 2 new classes will be added to the department of mathematics. The program may also require the hire of a new faculty member, but the need has not yet been determined.

Rahul Parsa, current senior lecturer at Iowa State and former Director of the Actuarial Science Program at Drake University, will be the lead faculty member for the actuarial science program.   

“People in the industry say we need more actuaries with high skill levels,” Parsa said, “its a win for the students, a win for Iowa State, and a win for the industry.”  

After each degree is voted on by the faculty senate, the proposal will move to the Board of Regents. Rajan and Parsa are both hopeful students will be able to declare these programs by the fall of 2018.