three students looking at a computer

In the summer of 2022, launched a new credit-bearing “Introduction to Data” summer course designed to provide students from backgrounds that have historically been underrepresented in data science with new opportunities to learn about and participate in the field. 

Designed and taught by Tanya Byker from Middlebury’s economics department, the course began with three weeks of remote instruction via synchronous Zoom sessions, with students working together and with the professor and a teaching assistant to complete short assignments. These remote sessions focused on data acquisition and management, the basics of Excel and R, and the use (and misuse) of data in public discourse. The last week of class brought its students to campus a week ahead of First@Midd orientation, for an in-person intensive session focused on further developing students’ data analysis skills through more in-depth project-based learning requiring the use of R. The course culminated with student presentations of empirical research projects tied to the theme “Data for Justice.” In addition, during the intensive in-person portion of the class, students had the opportunity to meet and hear from faculty across the curriculum, who offered insights and opportunities for the students to continue their exploration of data science.

With generous support from current Middlebury parents Alan and Annamarie Louie, we were able to provide 15 incoming first-year students with financial support to enroll in the pilot inaugural Intro to Data class at no cost and to receive their first Middlebury credit before the fall semester even began. This group of students shared numerous anecdotes, hopes, dreams, and plans with us over the course of the month and beyond that suggest many were inspired and empowered by the course. plans to repeat the course in Summer 2023.

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