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Pepperdine University Opens Keck Data Science Institute

Updated: May 18, 2023

In 2021, Pepperdine University received a $10 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation in order to strengthen the research and teaching methods of Data Science & AI at Seaver College. Following this acquisition, the Keck Data Science Institute was founded on campus, giving students and faculty members an opportunity to learn about and interact with one of the fastest growing fields of study.


“[The Keck Data Science Institute] gives us a way to be in touch with the world we live in, and also to be more equipped to make a positive difference,” says Professor Fabien Scalzo, the director of the Institute. “What we want is for future generations to be able to contribute to the betterment of society.”


As a result of the Keck grant, Seaver College has launched a data science minor, which introduces students to the discipline with an emphasis on ethics. In 2022, the Institute welcomed its first group of students.


“AI is changing our world. Everytime you pick up your phone or go on the internet – everything you do is being recorded in some way,” explains Scalzo. “What we want to do here is have an approach that is human centered – where we have ethics at the forefront. Data science is going to become so powerful, [eventually], that if we don’t institute those values, there is a risk that they will be overlooked.” With this approach, Scalzo and his team at the Keck Data Science Institute plan to strengthen collaborations among faculty of different disciplines and thereby create new opportunities for students at Seaver College.


The Institute will also benefit faculty members’ research. Considering the amount of objective information one can gather from looking at a variety of data trends, Scalzo believes data science will add depth to each academic discipline. Over 35 faculty members from different programs within Seaver College have already signed up to be affiliated with the Institute and its programs.

The Keck Data Science Institute is adding to the vibrant academic culture of Seaver college, hosting the Human Centered AI Conference – where scholars from Caltech, USC, UCLA, and MBZUAI brought together a number of different perspectives regarding the subject. Looking forward, this new addition to the University will help ensure that Pepperdine is on the leading edge of this developing field.


To learn more about the Keck Data Science Institute, visit their new webpage.


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