Investigating and Interpreting DataUSMA’s New Applied Statistics and Data Science Major

In August 2016, Major General John Baker and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Henderson ’94 published an article in ARMY magazine titled, “Making the Case for Army Data Scientists.”

In the article, Baker and Henderson posit that the Army needs to leverage the exponentially growing amount of data it collects in order to maintain a competitive advantage over this nation’s adversaries. Doing this, they write, “will involve educating, equipping and retaining a new breed of expert leaders” in three essential disciplines: domain expertise (operations and intelligence), mathematics, and computer science. “No formal Army personnel system is necessarily producing someone who is steeped in all three components of data science,” Baker and Henderson determine. “But we need to move swiftly and boldly to commission Army data scientists to lead this effort.”

While Baker and Henderson’s argument was finding an audience, West Point’s Department of Mathematical Sciences (MATH) was independently laying the groundwork to make the article’s recommendation a reality. Statistics had already been part of the MATH curriculum for some time, and about a decade ago, the department launched an Applied Statistics minor. “As our Statistics efforts have grown, and as the need for data scientists and statisticians has grown, within both the Army and society at large, we came to the conclusion that now is the time to establish a new major that focuses on these topics,” says Assistant Professor Lieutenant Colonel Nick Clark ’02. According to Colonel Krista Watts ’96, Director of MATH’s Operations Research and Statistics Program, Clark was the one that “put the nuts and bolts together” for USMA’s new Applied Statistics and Data Science (ASDS) major, which was approved by the Dean’s Office in December 2018 and first offered to the cadets in the Class of 2022. Read more.

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