Thursday, July 27, the College of William and Mary board of visitors discussed the steering committee for the Computing, Data Science and Applied Science Initiative’s final report as part of its annual summer retreat session.
If created, the school would house not only the namesake computing, data science and applied science departments, but also the physics department, which unanimously voted to join the effort in the spring. According to the College’s website, the initiative is consistent with the Vision 2026 strategic plan and will build on the College’s current strengths in computing and data science for educational and research pursuits, while also expanding the College’s presence and influence in those areas.
College Provost Peggy Agouris created the 15-member steering committee Jan. 23 and tasked it with exploring and analyzing options to create a new school for data science at the College. Agouris also directed the committee to work with the budget office and the associate dean for finance and administration on its report.
“The steering committee will refine the model of the proposed new academic entity by considering implementation aspects and financial parameters, as well as relevant advantages and disadvantages of possible structure,” Agouris wrote in an email to members of the committee.
The committee submitted its final report to Agouris June 12. Following a series of town halls and surveys, the 98-page document details feedback from relevant stakeholders in the College community. The committee also met with Student Assembly, which incorporated questions regarding the new school in its Omnibus Survey.
“If approved, a proposed school of Computing, Data Science and Applied Science (“CDSAS”) at William & Mary would become the first new school established at the institution in more than half a century.”
“If approved, a proposed school of Computing, Data Science and Applied Science (“CDSAS”) at William & Mary would become the first new school established at the institution in more than half a century,” the report’s executive summary reads. “Proponents of this new entity believe that once established, it will address increased student demands in these three areas, elevating William & Mary’s national profile in industries marked by robust economic growth across the country.”
Agouris presented the report’s executive summary to board members, adding that she hoped to present a proposal to College President Katherine Rowe in October with possible board action in November.
According to the report, opponents of the initiative expressed concerns that a new data science school might draw resources away from the rest of the School of Arts and Sciences and undermine the College’s traditional liberal arts strengths.
However, the committee alleviated concerns that such a move would have said impact.
“This amount is not large in relative terms, representing 0.07% of the current Arts & Science $117 million operating budget,” the report states. It notes that the Dean of Arts and Sciences’ budget allotment would decrease by $78,000. “Moreover, as noted above, the Provost has indicated her willingness to increase Arts & Sciences’ funding by an amount that would more than compensate for this reduction.”
According to findings from the committee, there is little support among those surveyed in the College community for either a graduate-only school or a direct admission model. The committee notes that while a graduate-only school could operate effectively, it could also encourage distance and competition between undergraduate and graduate populations.
Some members of the College community hope that the new unit will collaborate with other existing programs.
At a Feb. 28 Student Assembly Senate meeting, the committee met with the Senate for student feedback. Sen. Morgan Brittain, a graduate from the Arts and Sciences, posed a similar question.
“To what extent would this school kind of cross cut things that are happening within other units?” Brittain said. “Like how would it engage Arts and Sciences and programs within the other schools at William and Mary?”
While committee members did not give a specific answer at the Senate meeting, the committee’s final report emphasized efforts in this area.
“Central to these discussions was the desire to maintain and expand collaborations between the proposed new unit and other university units/departments/schools through core membership and flexible affiliations by individuals and/or program clusters,” the report reads.
“Central to these discussions was the desire to maintain and expand collaborations between the proposed new unit and other university units/departments/schools through core membership and flexible affiliations by individuals and/or program clusters.”
At the board meeting, Agouris announced a new timeline going forward for the initiative. The initiative’s implementation must follow further discussions with the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia, so the earliest timeline for the implementation is not until after Aug. 2024.
Following an online feedback form that closed on July 25, Agouris said she was slated to meet with Faculty Assembly and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in September for further conversations.
Agouris will submit her recommendations to Rowe, who will finalize the recommendations and present them to the Board.