Arts and Sciences Announces New Data Visualization Certificate Program

The Seton Hall College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of Psychology and Computer and Mathematical Sciences are teaming up to launch undergraduate and graduate Data Visualization and Analysis certification programs beginning in the Fall 2012 semester.

The program seeks to arm students with the skills and knowledge to communicate information clearly and effectively using graphic representations that will engage the viewer, according to the program’s director Manfred Minimair, Ph.D., associate professor for the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

“The students learn how to analyze and portray complex data in an attractive and vivid design format, Minimair said. “The students practice preparing real-world data for storing in databases, analyzing data with statistics and machine-learning tools, and using visualization in order to study data and present findings.”

Students will gain a variety of skills including using programs like Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access to design databases and prepare data, use statistics, data mining and data visualizations to evaluate data and make inferences, and then use Excel and Tableau for data presentation and study.

Increasing demand for data visualization and data analysis in both the private and public sectors is behind Seton Hall and the College of Arts and Sciences decision to introduce a the program next fall.

“Organizations have a growing need for data analysis and visualization, but it is often very difficult to gain profound insights from this data such that decision makers reach adequate conclusions, Minimair said. “Employees trained by the programs will be able to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphic depictions that stimulate and encourage viewer engagement.”

A variety of businesses, organizations and government agencies are seeking employees with the skills the Data Visualization and Analysis program will provide them with because it will enable decision makers in those organizations to support their key decisions with complex data portrayed in attractive, understandable and vivid formats.

“Health and public administrators want to efficiently deliver health care to patients; therefore, they have to understand how the needs of the patients and the efficient delivery of health care drive cost,” Minimair said. “Doctors and health care professionals want to assess the effectiveness of treatments based on conflicting data from different studies. Marketing analysts study online social networks in order to provide the foundations for new marketing campaigns. Financial analysts want to understand the relationships among different stock prices and economic indicators. The government collects and analyzes data on terrorist threats.”

The skills learned in the certificate programs are in demand in many industries, according to Minimair, including marketing, finance, insurance, news and health care, as well as in many academic fields like business, criminal justice, economics, psychology, sociology, biology and applied mathematics.

Data Visualization and Analysis is an interdisciplinary field. As such, the certification program will draw from a variety of courses and build the variety of skills required for data analysis and visualization. The program also has an internship component to give students hands-on experience applying what they learn in the field.

Computing and statistics are needed for data analysis. Psychology and design are needed for data visualization,” Minimair said. “Further elective courses have been chosen to allow students to specialize in specific application areas such as business.”

Visual Analytics is a new and growing academic field, according to Minimair, and Seton Hall’s new program will position the University as an educational leader in the field. Rutgers University recently announced a new graduate core curriculum in Interdisciplinary Perceptual Science, computational techniques and human perception, which is targeted at Ph.D. students in affiliated departments. Columbia University is offering a graduate program in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences.

“While other educational institutions offer certain programs with visualization and data analysis components, certificates with this focus are unique in our area,” Minimair said. “The certificates are a great opportunity to assume leadership in this area and to differentiate ourselves from other programs.”

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