Clark Atlanta awarded $10 million to launch data science program

Clark Atlanta University is the largest, private historically Black school in Georgia. It has about 4,000 students. PHOTO CREDIT: CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY.

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Clark Atlanta University is the largest, private historically Black school in Georgia. It has about 4,000 students. PHOTO CREDIT: CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY.

First HBCU to receive National Science Foundation grant

Clark Atlanta University is set to get a massive $10 million award from the National Science Foundation to help increase the number of Black students entering the field of data science.

As part of the grant, CAU will establish the National Data Science Alliance (NDSA).

CAU President George T. French Jr., called the move a “monumental accomplishment,” in noting that the Atlanta-based university is the first historically Black school to receive this NSF award.

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Clark Atlanta University President George T. French Jr. speaks at the 2020 graduation Saturday at the Harkness Hall Quadrangle in Atlanta on May 15, 2021. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Clark Atlanta University President George T. French Jr. speaks at the 2020 graduation Saturday at the Harkness Hall Quadrangle in Atlanta on May 15, 2021. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Clark Atlanta University President George T. French Jr. speaks at the 2020 graduation Saturday at the Harkness Hall Quadrangle in Atlanta on May 15, 2021. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

“Clark Atlanta University has deep roots in conducting data science research that promotes equity, including the seminal works of scholar and former faculty member W.E.B. Du Bois on these hallowed grounds,” French said. “This historic award exemplifies our commitment to ensuring a competitive advantage for students to succeed and excel in our data-driven society.”

Du Bois’ work in data science and data visualization, is an under-studied portion of his rich academic and scholarly career. The renowned scholar taught at Atlanta University where he wrote some of his seminal works, including, “The Souls of Black Folk,” in 1903.

In 2018, Britt Rusert, an associate professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Whitney Battle-Baptiste, an associate professor of anthropology at U-Mass and director of its W.E.B. Du Bois Center, edited “W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America.”

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A portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois from 1904, when he was a professor at Atlanta University. The Atlanta Constitution often reported on the professor's activities, and first mentioned him as a Harvard student in 1890.

Credit: Library of Congress

A portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois from 1904, when he was a professor at Atlanta University. The Atlanta Constitution often reported on the professor's activities, and first mentioned him as a Harvard student in 1890.

Credit: Library of Congress

Combined ShapeCaption
A portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois from 1904, when he was a professor at Atlanta University. The Atlanta Constitution often reported on the professor's activities, and first mentioned him as a Harvard student in 1890.

Credit: Library of Congress

Credit: Library of Congress

The book is an examination of Du Bois’ groundbreaking data visualizations from the 1900 Paris World Fair.

The NDSA is expected to increase the number of Black people earning data science credentials by at least 20,000 by 2027 and expand data science research that advocates for social justice and strive to eliminate bias.

Explore$8.25 million to Atlanta’s HBCUs seen as ‘big data’ pipeline investment

Talitha Washington, CAU’s director of the data science initiative and principal investigator of the grant, said the NDSA will work with other Black colleges across the country to broaden participation and advance social justice in data science and impact Black lives.

“We are excited that many HBCUs will collaborate with us to develop new equity-based discoveries in data science and expand student pathways that will change the face of data science,” said Washington, a math professor at the university.