BHEF Receives $650k Grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to Create Undergraduate Pathways for NYC College Students into Data Science Careers

BHEF to Lead a Cross-Sector Task Force Focused on Workforce Diversity in Big Data

Washington, D.C. (June 30) — The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded a $650k grant to the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) to increase the number and diversity of undergraduate data science and analytics students in the New York City (NYC) region prepared to enter graduate school or the workforce as data science-enabled professionals. To achieve this goal, BHEF will convene a multi-sector task force of noted NYC business, higher education, and cultural institutions to plan, design, and implement new pathways in the field.

BHEF assembled a similar group in May 2014 through a planning grant from the Sloan Foundation. They concluded that while career opportunities for students with data science skills are expanding rapidly, there are limited undergraduate opportunities in the field. Participants also noted a need for higher education pathways to meet the region’s talent demands in many sectors, including technology, analytics/consulting, media/publishing, financial services, energy, and retail.

BHEF will use its engagement strategy of five business levers—c-suite leadership, philanthropy, employee engagement, core competencies, and funded research—to improve undergraduate education outcomes with workforce demands. Through research and consultation with industry leaders, government agencies, and higher education institutions, the project will:

  • Map the data science workforce competencies required;
  • Build capacity at academic institutions teaching data science at the undergraduate level;
  • Create opportunities for low-income students, underrepresented minorities, women, and veterans; and,
  • Incorporate 21st-century competencies—such as critical thinking, problem solving, analytical reasoning, communication, and working in multi-cultural teams—into the undergraduate experience.

“New York City’s notable industries and cultural institutions offer a distinctive array of internship and employment options for undergraduate students eager to become data-science enabled professionals across many fields. It has been very heartening to see faculty and academic leaders from local campuses engage with key people from the industrial, public, and not-for-profit sectors in the planning phase for the project. I am optimistic that BHEF will continue to provide effective leadership, facilitation, and support for this effort,” said Elizabeth S. Boylan, Director of the STEM Higher Education program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

“The expansion into data science industry is a natural next step for BHEF’s National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative,” stated BHEF CEO Brian Fitzgerald. “We are grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its support. BHEF will create partnerships between top employers and higher education institutions and solutions to ensure data science will be embedded in the undergraduate experience. We expect that through these efforts, data science will be an essential skill set for undergraduates in virtually every discipline.”

About the Business-Higher Education Forum
Now in its 38th year, BHEF is the nation's oldest membership organization of Fortune 500 CEOs, prominent college and university presidents, and other leaders dedicated to advancing innovative education and workforce solutions and improving U.S. competitiveness. BHEF's business and academic members collaborate in regions across the country to design and deploy education-workforce solutions in the high-demand and emerging fields that are so critical to innovation and national security. BHEF and its members drive change locally, work to influence public policy at the national and state levels, and inspire other leaders to act.