Radford University Produces First Class of Data Scientists

By: Emily Lewis

            Radford University is coming to a major milestone on the path of creating the next generation of data scientists. The first graduates of the Data and Information Management Master’s Program (DAIM) within the department of Information Technology will receive their degrees on May 4th.

            One of the graduates, John Green, explained that it is a huge honor to be one of the first to earn the degree but it is also a big responsibility, “While being an honor, it is also scary in the fact that it is up to us to help promote and represent the image of the program.” John emphasized that Radford’s program was the right choice to further his career. “Radford prepared me for my future by allowing me to gain hands-on experience with many of the tools that I will be using. Through the interactive activities, I was able to learn how to troubleshoot better while also comparing the functionality of different tools,” he said.

            The students shared challenges and accomplishments together. “My experience in the DAIM program was enlightening. Being part of the first cohort, the program definitely came with challenges but overall was a very great experience,” John stated.                 

            Steve Oake, another graduate, was involved with the genesis of the program. “I was first made aware of the plans to put together the DAIM program in the summer of 2014,” Steve explained. “I knew from my early discussions with Dr. Pittges that it was something I wished to pursue.”

            All of the graduates agree that Radford’s class sizes were one of the best aspects of the program. “Radford's small class sizes allow you to form a close working relationship with the professors. You get a sense that the professors care about your progress,” Steve said.

            Graduate, Rashna Neupane, described the program as challenging and helpful to her career. “I enjoyed all aspects of the learning process in the program. I liked the learning environment, the relationship between the students and faculties, and the interaction within the classroom,” she said.  “It was a great platform for us to share our knowledge and ideas and learn from each other. I believe during this incredible experience I have developed my confidence to deal with the problems and challenges in the days to come.”

            DAIM graduate, Jagat Dhami, explained that collaborating with faculty and being involved in projects helped him acquire new skills. “About 75% of the program is designed with hands-on activities, which assisted me in gaining real experience,” Jagat stated. “Some of the course work was established under the mentorship of industry experts, which helped us build relationships with people and learn about real cases within the business world.”

            Prior to joining the DAIM program, Jagat was involved with the banking industry and had completed a Master’s of Business Administration degree. “The DAIM program helped me develop the skills I lacked, both practically and theoretically,” Jagat said.  “I never explored big data before joining the program, and now I feel comfortable processing massive amounts of information with the latest technology.”

            Two students will transition to the working world immediately following graduation. Jagat will serve as an Associate Engineer at WellCare based in Florida, where he will be working on administrating a big data application. John will be working as a Systems Engineer for M.C. Dean in Tysons, Va. Rashna and Steve are considering multiple opportunities.

            The future of the program is bright, “DAIM is the only graduate program in Virginia focused on data management,” explained Program Coordinator Dr. Jeff Pittges. “As the volume and velocity of information continues to increase, the need for this skill set will grow exponentially.”