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UNT adding advanced data degrees

Based on local industry demand for data analysts, the University of North Texas is ready to provide training and expertise in big data with three new master's degree programs. 

In a meeting Friday, the UNT Board of Regents unanimously approved the three programs: digital communication analytics, data science and advanced data analytics. Officials hope to start classes in fall. 

Digital communication analytics is meant for a variety of professionals who want to integrate analyzing data into their careers, such as marketing or business, said Finley Graves, UNT's provost and vice president for academic affairs. The data science program, part of the College of Information, is designed to teach students how to deal with large volumes of information and turn it into actionable knowledge. Advanced data analytics is for statistical methods and modeling. 

"I think it's very innovative to take a big lead in this data analytics and I commend you for being first and leading in this very exploding area," UNT Regent Al Silva told Graves. 

Now that the board has approved the programs, the last step is approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Once this happens, students officially can start enrolling in courses to work toward these degrees.

Since the university opened a satellite campus in Frisco, UNT President Neal Smatresk said private businesses have made it clear they need more people specialized in data analytics. 

"The market in Frisco has clearly indicated to us that producing employees with data skills is something they're very interested in," he said. "These are all important employment pathways for the future, and big data is here to stay."

UNT has been working on designing the programs for a long time, said Michael Monticino, the director for the advanced data analytics program. Once the Frisco campus opened, the timeline began moving more aggressively. 

Depending on the student's major, classes will be in Frisco, Denton or online, Monticino said. The advanced data analytics program will be entirely online, with a goal of having 30 students in fall. 

As the programs grow, he hopes students want to learn more about how data analytics ties into their industries, regardless of whether they pursue the new graduate degrees.

"It really is the idea of having designated programs for data science and analytics and using it as a platform to infuse data analytics across the university," he said. "I think we all see the future in every industry right now is to be more data-focused." 

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.