Faculty Approve Proposed Majors in Data Science and Finance | St. Lawrence University

Faculty Approve Proposed Majors in Data Science and Finance

St. Lawrence University faculty members have voted in favor of creating bachelor’s degree programs in data science and finance, two cutting-edge fields where graduates are in high demand.

Both major proposals are with the New York State Education Department for final approval. If approved to be added to the University’s curriculum, St. Lawrence would be among a very small number of liberal arts colleges to offer either program.

“The ingenuity within our faculty knows no limits, and these proposed majors in finance and data science illustrate that,” says Vice President for Enrollment Management & Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Florence Hines. “In a year unlike any other, our faculty gave everything they had to exploring how they could maximize their colleagues’ incredible skill sets and retooled program offerings that will enable St. Lawrence to continue offering a dynamic education that will transform students, communities, and our world.”

Both proposed majors are results of Experience St. Lawrence: The Task Force on Institutional Structure, Policy, and Planning, which was created in December 2019 with the charge of reimagining a liberal arts education in the 21st century and recommending a pathway to position St. Lawrence as a leader among its peers for decades to come. The process enlisted the expertise of numerous Laurentians across disciplines and divisions, and the proposed finance and data science majors are the first of several inspiring academic programming recommendations made by the Task Force to be presented to and voted on by the faculty.


St. Lawrence’s proposed finance major will be housed within St. Lawrence’s Department of Economics, which is known for producing high-quality graduates who earn great placements and are successful in finance-related fields.

The content for the major will complement the courses already offered in the economics curriculum, which will serve as the foundation for the program. The coursework will introduce and require classes in investments and corporate finance, the two main areas of finance, which will provide a clear academic path for students interested in finance-related fields.

“With the influence from many different disciplines and co-curricular experiences, liberal arts institutions like St. Lawrence University are well positioned to prepare graduates for careers in the financial sector that require complex analysis across different sectors,” says Brian Chezum, the A. Barton Hepburn associate professor of economics and a faculty lead on the proposal to add finance to the curriculum. “Liberal arts colleges are the best-situated institutions to affect the distribution of income and wealth by opening doors for and meeting the needs of students from diverse and underserved communities. This major will create opportunities for students to not only succeed, but also uncover how they’ll have a positive impact on the world.”

A hallmark of St. Lawrence’s Department of Economics is how often professors connect their courses and students to the University’s top-ranked alumni network through class visits, alumni-led case studies, and mentoring opportunities. With economics being one of St. Lawrence’s most popular majors for more than a decade, finance majors will have ample opportunities to engage often with and learn from alumni in the field.

The proposed major will also attract high school students from diverse and underserved communities who take part in career development accelerator programs throughout high school and are eager to find robust career preparation, networking, and mentoring programs.

The proposed finance major, coupled with electives, will prepare students for careers at financial, wealth management, and investment banking firms, emerging financial institutions, international financial management divisions, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and environmental advocacy organizations. The finance major will also prepare students for professional and graduate programs, such as an MBA.

Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics Cynthia Bansak and Assistant Professor of Economics Sahar Milani joined Chezum in co-authoring the proposal. 

Data Science

Data science is a rapidly-growing field that touches the lives of billions around the globe each day. Recent St. Lawrence students and graduates have already leveraged elements of the University’s robust offerings in mathematics, computer science, and statistics through double majors and minors in order to pursue careers or graduate programs in data science. The proposed program will become part of the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics.

Students will have access to four computer-lab classrooms and two state-of-the-art high-performance computers. Highlights of the proposed major include machine learning courses and the senior capstone experience where students will have the option to complete an independent Senior Year Experience, an approved internship or summer research fellowship, or embark on an Applied Data Science Seminar.

“There is an incredible demand for data scientists that’s not even close to being met and graduates from St. Lawrence with an interdisciplinary background will have an advantage within the field,” says Lisa Torrey, associate professor of computer science and one of the faculty leads on the proposed data science major. According to LinkedIn, there has been a 650% increase in data science jobs between 2012 and January 2021.

Thanks to the faculty expertise found within the department, program graduates will be well equipped to tackle problems, experiment, and provide answers to big questions that will help organizations make critical decisions, develop better products, and improve user experiences.

The faculty members involved in developing the proposed major noted that “communication and visualization are also core skills for a data scientist, and the liberal arts experience at St. Lawrence is an ideal environment to develop such skills.”

Students studying data science at St. Lawrence would be qualified for numerous data analyst, data scientist, and data engineering roles across a variety of sectors. The proposed program will also help propel students into advanced degree programs. St. Lawrence currently offers a data science minor and has a 4+1 data science master’s program agreement with the University of San Francisco, as well as a 4+1 data analytics master’s agreement with Clarkson University.

In addition to Torrey, other faculty authors of the proposal included Charles A. Dana Professor of Computer Science Ed Harcourt, Associate Professor of Computer Science Choong-Soo Lee, Cummings Professor of Mathematics Patti Frazer Lock, Associate Professor of Statistics Ivan Ramler, and Charles A. Dana Professor of Statistics Michael Schuckers.

Note: Featured photo taken before COVID-19.