Mastercard invests $5 million into Howard University data science program | ZDNet


Howard University is opening a new Center for Applied Data Science and Analytics (CADSA) with the help of a $5 million grant from Mastercard. 

CADSA — which launches in the Spring 2022 semester — will offer master’s degrees in applied data science and hold events on racial equity and inclusive growth. Howard University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony Wutoh said the center will “use data science to answer some of the broader societal questions we believe Howard can significantly impact, including those around health care and economic disparities.”

“Data science touches everything, and it’s going to continue to be increasingly impactful in everything that we do,” Wutoh said. 

The center will offer a variety of courses on data science and will aim to provide students with “expertise in incorporating analysis of racial bias in financial services.”

CADSA will also be tasked with conducting research into how data science can contribute to minimizing racial bias in credit approval processes. Dozens of studies and reports have repeatedly shown that Black communities face significant discrimination and algorithmic bias in financial services. Credit decisions have also been proven to be heavily weighted against Black applicants

Mastercard senior vice president for social impact Salah Goss said data is embedded in nearly every facet of our lives and ensuring it is used responsibly and positively impacts society’s most pressing issues “is paramount.”

“Howard University is taking a novel approach to addressing data science research by investing in a new generation of professionals who can combine the rigor of science with broader societal impact,” Goss said. 

Howard University said CADSA will prioritize recruitment of tenure-track data science faculty and will attempt to expand research efforts into Black health and health disparities, social justice, environmental justice and economic empowerment.

William Southerland, Howard University professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, will be the first director of the center. Howard University also wants the center to partner with other HBCUs across the country on programs that “advance talent development and diversity in the field of data science for social impact.”

“Data science occurs when data is converted into useful and actionable knowledge,” said Southerland, who also serves as principal investigator of the HU Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) Program. 

“This process works best for societal advancement when data is approached without preconceptions and knowledge is interpreted without bias. That is why diversity in the data science profession is so critically important, and it’s also why this Mastercard-Howard collaboration is destined to be very impactful.”

Mastercard’s $5 million grant to Howard University is half of the $10 million they pledged to donate to HBCUs for a variety of programs. They donated funds to launch the Center for Black Entrepreneurship at Morehouse College and Spelman College while also working with Howard’s School of Business on other initiatives. 

Mastercard said it intends to spend $500 million over the next five years to “advance racial equity and economic opportunities for Black Americans, to increase access and usage of appropriate financial services and to expand access to capital and resources for Black-owned businesses.”

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