Miami University: Construction begins this fall on the Richard M. McVey Data Science Building Fall

$ 20 million gift from Rick McVey ’81 secures expansion of Miami’s transdisciplinary data science program

By Margo Kissell, College News and Communication

Allison Riley loves dates.

The senior majoring in data science and statistics with a minor in analytics was promoted to data manager in the same nonprofit organization that she did a data internship with during her freshman year at Miami University.

“I love using data to tell stories,” said Riley, an intern at the Center for Analytics and Data Science (CADS) in Miami and a researcher at the Wilks Leadership Institute.

Riley works for Magnified Giving, whose mission is to educate, inspire, and engage students in philanthropy and, in her words, “touch the hearts and minds of teenagers, defuse the worries of others, and increase the impact of philanthropy.”

While she is doing her bachelor’s degree in college, she’s already thinking about the next steps – possibly a master’s in business analytics or data analytics.

Riley knows Miami is planning to break ground this fall for the Richard M. McVey Data Science Building, an 87,000-square-foot space along Tallawanda Road on the Oxford campus near Withrow Hall and Benton Hall.

“I think it’s great that they are building and devoting an entire building to just data type majors and degrees,” she said.

A $ 20 million gift

Construction of the three-story building is expected to be completed in January 2024, said John Porchowsky, project manager for the McVey Data Science Building and a member of Miami’s design, architecture and engineering divisions.

Miami officials announced a $ 20 million gift from Richard McVey (Miami ’81) to fund construction in October 2020. The building was named in recognition of this donation – one of the five greatest single gifts in Miami’s history.

As the founder, chairman and CEO of New York-based MarketAxess, a leading international financial technology company and now part of the S&P 500 stock index, McVey is passionate about helping Miami advance the data science space.

“Data science and artificial intelligence have a profound impact on all sectors of the economy, especially here at MarketAxess,” said McVey. “The need for data science knowledge is growing rapidly in all industries. It is gratifying to use this gift to help Miami build a distinctive program that will improve access to data science programs for Miami students for decades to come. “

Miami President Gregory Crawford stressed that this gift is central to making Miami’s vision of creating an academic epicenter for data science a reality.

“An interdisciplinary team of faculties and staff worked on a design for this building that will transform our academic programs in terms of data science and digital technology. This gift makes that vision a reality, ”said Crawford.

Crawford hopes the new facility will foster greater transdisciplinary research for the faculty and provide students with a transformative educational experience.

Research and practical study experience

The building will house the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design as well as the Departments of Statistics and Computer Science and Software Technology, the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies and CADS.

“The design of the new building will create many spaces for collaboration, in which it enables possible collisions between lecturers and students from all possible areas in these common rooms and offers the opportunity to see things from different perspectives,” says Michael Bailey-Van Courses, Substitute professor and associate professor for Emerging Technology in Business + Design.

The building is also designed to facilitate partnerships with other related areas of the Farmer School of Business and the College of Engineering and Computing.

In addition to lecturer and student project rooms, consulting rooms, classrooms and computer laboratories, there is the Cyber ​​Security Lab, the Robotics / Maker Lab, the XR Stage, the UX Focus Group Room and the VR Track Space.

Eric Hodgson, chief departmental advisor of Emerging Technology in Business + Design and director of the Smale Interactive Visualization Center, said everyone is thrilled to have so many related disciplines brought together in one place.

“When we’re in the same building together, we can interact with colleagues and students outside of our departments, see each other’s work, have conversations, and collaborate that might otherwise not happen,” he said. “This is one of the important factors that came up during the design phase of the building. We wanted to be together to take advantage of new synergies. ”

Hodgson said they want students to have hands-on experience with visualization devices (e.g. virtual reality or eXtended reality), cybersecurity, robotics, and eye tracking.

“Some of these technologies are available on campus, but they are scattered. Some students may not know they exist in another department or may not have that much access to them, ”he said.

Hodgson is excited about the XR stage setup, which offers new possibilities for projection mapping, motion tracking and blended reality recording, similar to what he said to produce the television series “The Mandalorian”.

“This is an emerging technology that has a lot of potential for science and industry but is not yet widely available,” he said. “We have applied for large grants to bring this technology to campus and teach Miami students how to use their full potential.”

A one-stop place for interactions on external projects

John Bailer, university professor and chair of the department of statistics, said the new facility will bring together many of the data science colleagues from across campus.

“Statistics and computer science, in particular, form the basis of data science efforts around the world,” says Bailer. “The proximity of these departments in the new building has the potential to encourage strong interactions between these groups.”

Bailer said the shared location of the Statistical Consulting Center (now in Upham Hall) and CADS (now in Laws Hall) will provide “a central location that will facilitate interaction with external project sponsors.”

Data science is not the realm of a single discipline, Bailer said.

“Future data scientists need a solid foundation in statistical thinking, tools and techniques, as well as computer concepts, languages ​​and skills,” he said.

The new space was specifically designed to improve student-faculty collaboration, so the statistics department’s current home at Upham Hall is not well-suited, noted Bailer.

Amy Beissel, interim director of CADS, said the McVey Data Science Building will provide Miami with an opportunity to be at the forefront of industry trends in this area.

“Analytics and data science are a growing field of study and occupation,” she says. “Every industry is looking for talented people who understand how data can shape, inform and create opportunities.”

CADS will occupy a space that is an open concept where staff and students can interact more, work together, and solve problems.

“We hope to be able to offer new technologies for video conferencing to meet customers,” said Beissel. “The overall feel we are striving for is a trendy, industry-like experience that is very different from traditional academic environments.”

This press release was produced by Miami University. The views expressed here are your own.

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