Chat with Charles, vol. 5

Employer demand for graduates with data science training is skyrocketing. Charles Huang ’93, co-chair of the Light the Way campaign, shares exciting updates on how the campus is transforming to seize this opportunity.

What’s happening with data science at Berkeley?

We’ve seen an explosion of interest in data science. We launched a new major and a new Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) in 2018. It focuses on using computing and data science in a responsible, ethical way toward issues that impact people, like climate change, artificial intelligence, and health.

Nine students graduated that first year. This academic year we expect more than 900! Nearly half of this year’s graduates are women, and students from underrepresented backgrounds are increasing every semester. We need diverse perspectives in tech and other fields to make sure data science is being used to benefit everyone.

Where is this booming interest headed?

The UC Board of Regents just approved CDSS becoming a college — Berkeley’s first new college in more than 50 years. It makes data science accessible to students across all disciplines, not just those studying engineering or technical fields.

An education student could use it to look at the barriers people face when pursuing higher ed. A public health student could look at the relationship between the changing climate and infectious disease outbreaks.

My friend George Ng ’03 was CTO of an insurance technology company that analyzed actuarial data. He said Berkeley students are using more advanced tools than some of his employees and other industry professionals. That helped me understand just how cutting-edge our curriculum is.

Photo of dig participants in blue hardhats digging into a sandpit and lightly tossing the sand.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Gateway in fall 2022. Participants included (from left to right) Seri Khoury, Charles Huang, Michael Grimes, Jennifer Chayes, Chancellor Carol T. Christ, Tsu-Jae Liu, Anca Dragan, Ion Stoica, and Nitesh Nagpal. Photo by Keegan Houser.

Where will the new college live?

Construction has begun for its future home, the Gateway, on the campus’s north side. It will include 10 labs and 50 rooms, enough space for more than 1,600 faculty, students, and collaborators to learn and research. But as Chancellor Christ says, “You can’t build half a building.” We hope donors will join us to complete fundraising for this new facility.

As of May 1, 2023, 55 percent of the Gateway’s $577 million goal has been raised.

Berkeley has a reputation as a big bureaucracy that’s slow to change, but data science is transforming our campus at record speed. Our students also want to contribute to society, and when they move, mountains move.

Learn more about the Gateway.

Related stories