University of Oregon Proposes Merging Data Science and Geography to Invent New Hybrid Degree Program

Is the world of data science expanding so quickly that colleges and universities are concocting new degree programs just to keep up? If you ask the University of Oregon (UO), the answer is unequivocally “yes!”

UO has recently submitted a proposal to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to unleash a brand-new, never-seen-before baccalaureate degree program in Spatial Data Science and Technology (SDST). According to the proposal, the SDST degree is chiefly designed to instruct students in:

  • Developing and applying geospatial data and technologies
  • Analyzing and visualizing geospatial data
  • Integrating the abovementioned skills into the geospatial industry

By way of explanation, the UO proposal cited the United States Department of Labor’s classification of geospatial technologies as a “high growth industry,” which is now rising at an annual growth rate of 35%. As such, degree options that focus of geographic information science (GIS) are necessary to fill the unique, yet largely vacant career niches that fall somewhere between computer science and geography.

If granted HECC approval, UO intends to launch the SDST degree program in fall 2017. The program is structured around 48-credits streaming from 4 compulsory and 8 elective courses covering topics that include:

  • Big data
  • Computer programming
  • Satellites
  • Data analysis
  • Computational modeling
  • Web-mapping
  • Location-aware services

Andrew Marcus, dean of the College of Arts and Science at UO, was quoted by the Register-Guard stating the ultimate goal of the SDST degree is to teach students to design spatially empowered analytical tools or apps that serve both public and private sectors.

Given the school’s close proximity to tech hubs in Portland, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley, UO remains confident the SDST program will attract students from throughout Oregon and California. In fact, UO already expects an enrollment number of 30 students next fall.


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