UnitedHealth Group and the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC)—the oldest and largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)—are partnering on a new initiative to prepare students to meet the growing demand in the marketplace for data analytics experts.
The five-year, $8.25 million investment by UnitedHealth Group is part of an ambitious collaboration with AUCC and its membership: Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College.
“Many universities have refocused existing programs or developed new efforts to respond to the need for this, yet these responses are still insufficient based on projected demand,” said AUCC Executive Director Todd Greene. “The UnitedHealth Group funding will help to establish the base for this broad initiative, including hiring an accomplished director.
“Additionally, through UnitedHealth Group internships, guest lectures, faculty development opportunities, and other joint efforts, our students will greatly benefit from this partnership with the world’s largest managed health care company,” Greene continued. “We are grateful for UnitedHealth Group’s anchor investment in our vision, and we are in active conversations with other potential partners to assist us in other aspects of our plan.
The investment will fund the launch of the AUCC Data Science Initiative, which will offer technical classes for students who want to specialize in data science or learn data analysis to give them a competitive edge when they look for jobs in their field of study. The partnership comes as the number of job openings in the United States for data professionals is projected to reach more than 2.7 million by 2020, according to a national study.
The partnership is just one way UnitedHealth Group is making significant investments in creating a 21st-century health workforce that is ready to deliver personalized, culturally competent care, particularly in underserved communities. Since 2007, UnitedHealth Group has invested more than $20 million to fund nearly 2,600 scholarships for students pursuing careers as primary health care providers.
“Technology in general, and data science, in particular, are critical to better meeting the needs of our customers,” said David S. Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. “We are grateful for the opportunity to support this initiative because it aligns with our desire to ensure our workforce for the future is diverse and possesses the skills needed to propel our company for continued success.”
The AUCC has a long history of collaborating on impactful projects and producing leaders across many fields and disciplines, Greene said. Its collective community of 9,000 students will help the new Data Science Initiative reach a broad spectrum of scholars.
In addition to infusing data science across every academic discipline, the Data Science Initiative will teach students to use advanced data analytics techniques for academic research, particularly studies on disparities in minority communities. Certificate programs focused on data analytics and data science will also be developed.
“The AUCC Data Science Initiative brings together the collective talents and innovation of computer science professors from Morehouse College and other AUCC campuses into an academic program that will be the first of its kind for our students,” said David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College. “Our campuses will soon produce hundreds of students annually who will be well-equipped to compete internationally for lucrative jobs in data science.
“This effort, thanks to UnitedHealth Group’s generous donation, is an example of the excellence that results when we come together as a community to address national issues such as the disparity among minorities working in STEM.”
Other AUC presidents weighed in on the partnership:
“The colleges in the Atlanta University Center, for decades, have been in the vanguard of educating African Americans who succeed in STEM fields,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College. “This gift by UnitedHealth Group is an investment in our commitment to continue that primacy in STEM by making the AUCC a center of excellence for the study of data science across a range of disciplines in medicine and the liberal arts.”
Lucille H. Maugé, interim president of Clark Atlanta University, said, “Rather than pursuing an incremental school-by-school approach, the four institutions have determined that a collective approach best leverages our resources to obtain our ambitious overall goal of being the largest producer of minorities with expertise and credentials in data science and data analytics.”
“The Data Science Initiative has the potential to make the Atlanta University Center Consortium a national resource for experts in data analytics,” said Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine. “This program will not only produce talented data scientists who will be leaders in their fields but increasing the number of degree offerings with data science competencies at HBCUs will assist in diversifying a career field that is currently made up of less than 7 percent of under-represented minorities.”