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New School of Data Science building opens with remarks and ceremony

Governor Glenn Youngkin and University President Jim Ryan, among others, gave remarks to celebrate the building’s opening

In his remarks at the ceremony, Philip Bourne, dean of the School of Data Science, noted that the building was designed to support the School’s values of openness, transparency and innovation.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Philip Bourne, dean of the School of Data Science, noted that the building was designed to support the School’s values of openness, transparency and innovation.

The University’s School of Data Science building officially opened its doors to students and faculty Friday. To celebrate the Grand Opening, several contributors and guests spoke, including Governor Glenn Youngkin and University President Jim Ryan. The event ended with a 10-second countdown to the official opening, and guests in attendance were allowed to split into smaller groups to tour the building. The building will host the University’s School of Data Science starting this Fall, with faculty moving in throughout the summer.

Governor Youngkin spoke to students, faculty, and attendees at the ceremony. He said the Data Science program would provide future students in the school with ample job opportunities after earning their degrees. He noted that students would be able to contribute to worldwide connections and innovation, and learn how to lead in the field. 

Youngkin also said that he saw the field of data science as an opportunity to find truth and insights, citing the increasingly large volume of data being generated regularly.

“We sit in a world today that is seeking truth, that is seeking insight,” Youngkin said. “There is an opportunity for us to find that truth, to shed light on those insights, and most importantly, to lead. That's what Virginia does. The University of Virginia leads and the Commonwealth of Virginia leads.” 

The School of Data Science, launched in 2019, will now have a building to host its programs, students, and faculty. The four-story, 61,000 square-foot building includes four classrooms and two seminar rooms, as well as a two-story central hub which will host events and serve as a gathering place for all those involved in the program. 

President Jim Ryan also spoke, sharing his goals for the SDS program at the University. He said he hopes that the school’s goal of being “a school without walls” — referring to the program’s goal of promoting research and collaboration across disciplines — continues to animate the space. He also said he hopes that students can use the building as a homebase for serving their wider communities through the work they do. 

Ryan also said that he hopes that every project worked on in the School is a reminder of what it means to be “great and good”— a phrase referring to high-quality work which is also done ethically. 

“Universities should lead the way in figuring out how to use data responsibly,” Ryan said. “We must lead but lead well. And while artificial intelligence might not have been around 200 years ago, the idea of responsible citizen leadership is foundational to this place and is in our DNA. At this exciting moment in the field of data science, I firmly believe we are at the right university at the right time, and we have all the right people — which is all of you with us.” 

Several other speakers also made remarks at the opening event, including two major contributors to the building of the school. Jaffray Woodriff, CEO and co-founder of Quantitative Investment Management, stated his excitement that the study of data science is accessible to everyone at the University through the new school and building. Quantitative Investment Management previously donated the original $120,000,000 to launch the University’s School of Data Science in 2019. 

Prem Natarajan — Chief Scientist and Head of Enterprise Artificial Intelligence for Capital One, which donated $2,000,000 to support the construction of the SDS building — spoke to the importance of the multidisciplinary and multi-sectional research which students in the school will be working on. 

The final speaker at the opening ceremony was Navya Annapareddy, a PhD student at the SDS. In her remarks, she focused on the community and interactions with the world that the school would provide, and said that those in the school will learn to be leaders and citizens through doing technical work that still has a human-centered approach. 

“Data science is more than numbers and code,” Annapareddy said. “We solve next generation problems, but we do it in a way that engages diverse perspectives. And in the process, we define a version of data literacy that produces work that is both great and good. This school will train students, but it will also train leaders and citizens who are comfortable with uncertainty but not complacent with it.”

Brian Wright, director of Undergraduate Programs for the SDS, also said that having a space to house the SDS program is an important step to making the program more visible to the University community, as students and faculty can visit the building. He also said that the new building will help grow the still fairly new data science program. 

“The opening of the building really marks the beginning of the school,” Wright said. “We don't have a [B.S. in Data Science program now], but we will in the fall. We don't currently have a building, but we will in the fall. A lot of what's happening right now and going into the summer is the School really starting to show up and be present in a much more tangible way than than it was before.”

First-year College student Anna Yao attended the event and said she plans to apply to the Data Science major next year. Yao also said she found the opening event exciting and that she enjoyed speaking to people already in the program. 

“Coming here, seeing the building, seeing different research on display shows just how impactful and how much intention there is in this [program],” Yao said. “Actually being able to see it and stand in it makes it a lot more real, and I'm really excited to apply and learn more about the program.”

First-year College student Ian Kariuki, who also attended the event and said he plans to apply to the program, spoke about how his involvement in data science through the SDS inspired him to consider applying to the major. 

“Coming to U.Va., I got introduced to the field and became more interested [in it],” Kariuki said. “I joined a data science program run by graduate students, and I really enjoyed seeing how effective data has been and how it can be used in the future. I am really excited about the School. Just seeing how passionate people are here and getting to talk to so many professors is really amazing.”

According to Bourne, the SDS is engaged in work to advance multiple elements of President Ryan’s 2030 plan, which outlines strategic goals for the University with the aim of becoming the best public university in the United States by 2030. 

The new SDS building is located on the Ivy Corridor, a University-owned area of land at the intersection of Emmett Street and Ivy Road, in close proximity to other upcoming University projects, including the Karsh Institute of Democracy.


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