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Data Science Minor Opening Doors for ILRies

Through the new data science minor, Cornell undergraduates, including ILRies, can take courses to help them leverage wider career opportunities and make data-driven solutions.

“The world of work is embracing technological changes around data science and algorithmic management,” said JR Keller, associate professor at the ILR School. “Certainly, you are seeing in organizations, the HR side leaning into the use of data science, algorithms and artificial intelligence to identify and evaluate candidates.”

There is a push in human resource management toward utilizing more data-driven analysis in making decisions regarding talent acquisition, worker scheduling, employee retention, diversity and inclusion, he said.

Students must take six additional courses to fulfill the data science minor requirements. Two ILR courses, “Human Resource Analytics” and “Social Science Research Methods,” count toward the data science minor. They align well with the increased focus on data analysis in the new ILR curriculum, according to Liz Karns, an ILR senior lecturer who teaches introductory statistics to undergraduate and MILR students.

“This is one way to stay a player in the game,” Karns said. “If you don’t understand these concepts, you are marginalized, and your voice is not going to be terribly effective. Even if your job description is talent development, you need to be able to talk about recruitment models and why some work and some don’t.”

The data science minor courses provide students with a strong foundation in core data science concepts, faculty said. It allows them to pursue substantive applications in their other courses, according to Martin Wells, ILR’s director of research, Cornell’s Charles A. Alexander Professor of Statistical Sciences and chair of ILR’s Department of Social Statistics. Wells served as a member of the organizing committee for the data science minor, based in the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.

“We think it serves students much better to centralize this information and organize courses so that students can take core courses in data science and then pursue substantive applications in their other courses,” Wells said here.

ILR curriculum changes implemented in the fall of 2022 reflect the school's increased focus on data science and statistical analysis. The new data science minor is expected to complement the new ILR curriculum and offer students opportunities to dive deeper into data analysis skills and gain helpful expertise. “These modifications will ensure that ILR students continue to be prepared to address new challenges in the world of work while maintaining core strengths as a broad multi-disciplinary major,” said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D. ’99, said when he announced the curriculum changes. Colvin is ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor.

Keller said, “This will give students a better idea of how they can think about a collection of courses to help them gain the skills or expertise in their areas of interest. It creates a really nice roadmap in thinking about what you want to take and what impact you want to make down the road in the world of work.”

Karns voiced that in the field of law, in which many ILRies find jobs after graduation, the ability to have quantitative understanding and skills adds a great value.

The minor “will set our students apart,” Karns said. “For lawyers, especially, having the ability to take a good deposition (that’s) quantitatively based on data sets is very much in demand in law.

“I remember having a [former] student who had gone through the [ILR] program and they were in the first year of their job, called and said, ‘I have to negotiate a contract where they are giving salaries based on a regression model, can you remind me of how to do that again?’” Karns said. “It is part of normal practice now that you are expected to be quantitatively literate. You cannot just step aside and say, ‘I will let the experts do it.’ You have to be able to ask and understand questions.”

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