Data, data, everywhere

CWRU alumnus backs engineering school’s initiative for “big data” major

Mike McKenna, News Editor

Case Western Reserve University’s efforts to boot up an undergraduate data science major has gained a major financial supporter this past week due to efforts of one alumnus.

Robert Herbold, former chief operating officer of Microsoft Corporation, committed $2.6 million to create an endowment for a professor of informatics and analytics at the Case School of Engineering.

Herbold holds a doctorate in computer science and a master’s degree in mathematics from CWRU.

“The ability to evaluate and apply data has always been an integral part of an organization’s success,” Herbold said in a school of engineering press release. “But the unprecedented amount of information available today demands far more sophisticated approaches to analysis and execution. Case Western Reserve’s historic strengths give the university a unique advantage in preparing students to seize these emerging opportunities.”

According to Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Dr. Donald L. Feke who is seeing the initiative project through the improvement process, the School of Engineering hopes to launch the major next fall. However, specific classes related to the major will probably not be available until Fall 2015. Feke hopes that students will be able to declare the major and take related introductory courses through other departments.

Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives Lisa Camp called the donation “huge” for Engineering School to establish a program that handles the management of “big data.”

“One thing that is great is that the School of Engineering has a lot of first,” she said, citing CWRU having one of the first biomedical engineering departments among other examples. “When you have an alumnus that wants to be the first in this, it’s significant.” Camp later added, “It sends students a great message.”

Camp emphasized the importance of data management as a field.

“Look at you, data is all around us,” Camp said. “Our future is data everywhere.”