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Woodriff gives Big Data Institute $10 million

Institute to offer masters program starting in June

Investor Jaffray Woodriff pledged $10 million toward the creation of an endowment for the University’s newly formed Data Science Institute, the University announced Thursday.

The institute was created last year to serve as a hub of research and instruction in data science, said Engineering Prof. Don Brown, founding director of the institute.

Woodriff, who graduated from the Commerce School in 1991, will gift the endowment in stages during the next six years through the Quantitative Foundation, Woodriff’s private foundation.

Woodriff said he wants to see the University emerge as a leader in the field of big data.

“Data has always been very important,” Woodriff said in an email. “However, the tools to handle the burgeoning size of data in the world are evolving very quickly and I would like to see U.Va leading breakthroughs in data science in the coming years.”

The donation, combined with $7 million of the University’s own funds, will provide a key foundation for the organization to expand its national and global presence, Brown said.

“[The University can use this to] leverage current talent and new faculty hiring opportunities to focus research on those intellectual and social challenges where it can have the most impact,’” Senior Vice Provost James Adams said.

A wide range of faculty have already recognized the increasing importance that big data plays across disciplines, Adams said.

“Over 150 faculty members with an interest in this area [have] gathered on several occasions to plan for collaborative research and educational programs,” Adams said.

The institute aims to offer programs in engineering, science, medicine, business, ethics, social science, humanities and computing.

“The possible areas are limited only by our imagination, insightful questions and relevance to world issues,” Adams said.

Brown said he believes this interdisciplinary approach sets the University apart and will keep it competitive in the future.

The institute will open its masters program in the fall, soon followed by an undergraduate minor program. Brown hopes the effort will come to fruition some time next year.